FAQs

Patents

Why do I need a patent attorney to help me file an application?
Drafting a patent application requires detailed understanding of patent law as well as knowledge of the technology for which protection is sought.

How long does a patent last?
The term of exclusive rights to a patent lasts for 20 years from the date the application is filed.

What is the role of the patent examiner?
A patent examiner assigned to your application is selected based on his or her knowledge of the type of technology being claimed in the application. The examiner performs a search to determine whether the same or a similar technology has already been disclosed in a patent or other publicly disclosed publication.

What if there are other claims to my technology?
Your patent attorney can help you determine the best course of action to respond, including:
  • Amending your claims to overcome the examiner's objections
  • Trying to convince the examiner your application meets patent law requirements
  • Initiate appeals processes

How much time do I have to file a patent application?
The timing of filing an application has often been the cause that makes or breaks an innovation. If you have already publicly disclosed your invention, you have one year to file your patent application. Timing begins when you:
  • Place the invention on sale
  • Publish a description
  • Offer a detailed description at a public meeting
  • Put the invention in the hands of the public
  • Otherwise begin commercialization of the invention

If you fail to file within the one year of these events, your opportunity to get the patent is gone forever.

Trade Secrets

How can trade secret theft be prevented?
A business can take a series of precautions to help prevent trade secret theft. These include:
  • Revealing proprietary information to employees on a "need to know" basis
  • Keeping sensitive documents under lock and key
  • Requiring passwords to access computer files
  • Restricting access to facilities
  • Strict security procedures for visitor access and exit
  • Implementing a mandatory employee training and education program on the importance of protecting the company's assets

Copyrights

To what extent can copyrights be transferred?
All or part of the rights may be transferred by the owner to another. In this way, copyright is treated like any other property.

What can be done about copyright infringement?
If you believe your copyright has been infringed, your copyright attorney can discuss legal options with you, including filing a civil lawsuit in federal district court against the party using your copyrighted work without authorization.

If you have been accused of copyright infringement, your attorney can review with you the best course of legal action to take.

What is the proper process to follow to legally use another’s work?
If you know who holds the copyright, you may contact the owner directly and ask for permission to use the work. If not, you can request that the Copyright Office conduct a search of its records for an hourly fee.

When should I file a copyright application?
If you file within 90 days of completion of the work or before infringement begins, you can elect statutory damages and ask for attorney fees and costs. If not, you lose your right to these benefits.

Is using another’s work grounds for a lawsuit?
If a copyrighted work is used without authorization, its owner is entitled to bring an infringement action against the unauthorized user. A qualified intellectual property attorney can review your specific situation with you and counsel you on likely outcomes.

At what point does protection of a work begin?
From the moment you create your work in a tangible form, perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device, your work receives copyright protection.

Do copyrights extend to other countries?
The U.S. has copyright relations with more than 100 countries and through these agreements, a copyright might be protected, depending on the specific country with which a treaty exists.

Trademarks

What are the steps involved in the trademark registration process?
In the United States, you first need to determine if your product or service qualifies for a mark. If the mark is for a product, it must appear on the product itself, its container or display, and it must be sold or transported in commerce. If the mark is for a service, it must be used or displayed in the sale or advertising of the service and must be rendered in commerce. If it does, then you should conduct a trademark search covering the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office database and other databases to make sure no one else has already made a claim on the mark. Finally, you need to register the mark. You can do this using an online application system known as the Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS).

It is advisable to have legal counsel throughout this process as it is complex and once your application is filed and under examination, you may have questions.

When can a product legally bear the trademark registration symbol ®?
The federal registration symbol ® can only be properly used after the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office registers the mark.

When is trademark infringement a concern?
Trademark infringement is a concern when there is a “likelihood of confusion” between two marks for related goods or services. Likelihood of confusion is a legal doctrine that can exist even when actual confusion has not occurred. Your trademark attorney can review with you the marks and the best course of legal action to take.

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