Intellectual property can be thought of as protecting ideas and other products of the mind. Intellectual property provides a set of exclusive rights to an individual who has produced an intangible asset. In this way, intellectual property is less tangible than real property that has a geographical location with definite boundaries. In the United States, there are several different type of intellectual property, including patents, trademarks, trade dress, copyrights, and trade secret. Each different type of intellectual property grants different exclusive rights and requires different standards to be met by the individual. We have provided a brief description of each of these below. Please note, the discussion below pertains to intellectual property laws in the United States only. While many other countries have similar laws governing intellectual property, those laws may be different.
A patent provides exclusive rights to the inventor of an invention to prevent others from making, using, selling, or distributing the patented invention without permission. The exclusive rights are limited to twenty years from the filing date of the patent application. In exchange for the exclusive rights of a patent, the inventor provides public disclosure of an invention that has usefulness, has novelty, and is inventive (or not obvious). Typically, patents provide the strongest type of intellectual property protection, but have the highest standards for the individual to meet. In the United States, a patent application is submitted to the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The Office then examines the patent application to ensure that the invention meets the requirements for usefulness, novelty, and nonobviousness. If the invention meets these standards, then the Office will grant a patent.
Trademarks are used by businesses as a means to sell goods and services. Indeed, for many businesses trademarks are critical to their success. A trademark is used to distinguish the goods and services of one business from those of another business. In addition, a trademark serves to identify the source of the goods and services. The theory behind trademark law is to prevent consumer confusion in the marketplace. To obtain a valid United States Trademark Registration a trademark application identifying the trademark and the goods or services for which the trademark is sought is filed in the United States Patent and Trademark Office. An Examining Attorney at the United States Patent and Trademark Office will make a determination as to whether the trademark being sought may be registered in view of all the other trademarks already in use for similar goods or services.
A copyright provides exclusive rights to an author of an original work to copy, publish, distribute, adapt, perform, and display the original work. Works that are eligible for copyright protection include books, songs, dances, computer programs, movies, sculptures, and paintings. While copyright does not protect ideas, it will protect the expression of ideas. The requirements for copyright protection are much lower than the requirements for a patent. Copyright merely requires that the work is original and that it is fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyright registration is done at the United States Copyright Office. To register a work, an author merely deposits a copy of the work with the Copyright Office. A copyright lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years after death, or for a total of 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation (whichever arrives sooner) in the case of entity author.
Licensing agreements are used to fully exploit the potential of your intellectual property by granting certain rights to another party in exchange for fees or royalties. Licensing agreements may be used in connection with patents, trademark, and copyrights.
Litigation is the process of bringing a lawsuit against another party before a court to enforce a right or address a grievance. Litigation is typically a last resort when parties are unable to resolve a dispute on their own. Alternatives to litigation include mediation and arbitration. We have the skills and knowledge to effectively and efficiently represent you, whether through litigation, settlement or alternative dispute resolution means.
Trade secrets are a way that a company can secure its intellectual property without filing a patent application. A trade secret is valuable secret information that provides the company with a competitive advantage. This valuable information is not known outside the company. One of the key points of trade secret law is that the owner of the trade secret must be very diligent in maintaining the trade secret as a secret. It is common for trade secret owners to keep the secret under lock and key, limit access to the trade secret to a few key individuals, have employees execute nondisclosure agreements and protect the facility housing the trade secret with security devices. One of the fundamental differences between a trade secret and a patent is that after the term of the patent expires and the invention covered by the patent is deemed to be dedicated to the public. In contrast, a trade secret lasts indefinitely as long as no one discovers the secret.
We provide a full range of intellectual property counseling services. By understanding your unique circumstances, we tailor our efforts to best serve you. Our services include:
- Freedom to operate and product clearance opinions
- Non-infringement opinions to determine if you potentially may be liable to a third party intellectual property holder
- Validity / invalidity opinions to determine if another party’s intellectual property rights are valid, enforceable and/or protect what is allegedly claimed
- Infringement opinions to determine if another party may be infringing upon your intellectual property rights
- Cease and desist letters to enforce your intellectual property rights
- Defensive counseling if you have been named in a Complaint, received a cease and desist letter, or in any other way received notice that you may be infringing upon another’s intellectual property rights
The federal government uses administrative agencies to govern a variety of activities. Often, individuals or corporations need help understanding and complying with federal regulations. As Registered Patent Attorneys, we have extensive experience with federal law and an in-depth knowledge and understanding of the operation of administrative agencies. As such, we are uniquely situated to assist you with your federal legal issues.