You’ve heard about intellectual property protection, and perhaps you have an original idea, invention, process, or logo that you think needs that protection. You can protect your intellectual property as a trade secret or with a patent, trademark, or copyright. This article explains what these four types of intellectual property are, their application, the differences between them, problems unique to each, and related costs to register, file, or protect them.
The intellectual property attorneys at Paul & Paul have over 200 years of experience in registering, filing, and litigating intellectual property, as well as prosecuting intellectual property infringement and misappropriation. Contact the legal experts at Paul & Paul if you have an intellectual property question or problem.
What is a Patent?
A patent is a form of intellectual property protection that covers new or innovative ideas or processes. This could be technology, variations or strains of livestock or crops, or processes. Those who apply for patents are the inventors of the idea or process, who will create plans, drawings, or a prototype.
Why Do You Need an Experienced Patent Lawyer?
Typically, once a new idea or process is created, the inventors (or their company) will meet with a patent lawyer to determine whether the concept is indeed original and will be approved by the government patent office.
Next, either a provisional or nonprovisional patent application will be prepared for filing. Drafting a patent application requires a detailed understanding of the law and in-depth knowledge of the technology or process for which a patent is sought. After some back-and-forth with the inventors during which the concept description is honed, the patent attorney will file the application with the appropriate patent office.
Last, the patent attorney and the government patent office commence litigation. Patent litigation is not what it sounds like – it is merely the process through which a patent application is examined and approved, or not.
During patent litigation, a patent examiner, who is someone knowledgeable about the subject of the patent application, is assigned and will search to determine whether this new idea or concept has already been patented. Deadlines and other events in the approval process are then “docketed” and the patent attorney is responsible for managing the paperwork and adhering to deadlines.
Problems with Patents
A patent attorney can help you adhere to application deadlines, which is important because the timing of a patent application is crucial. When you publicly disclose your new idea or process will affect your ability to get a patent for that idea or process, because you have one year to file your patent application. After that, your opportunity to get a patent is gone forever.
You can “disclose” your invention in a number of ways:
- By selling your invention;
- By publishing a description;
- By disclosing a detailed description at a public meeting;
- By putting the invention in the hands of the public;
- By otherwise commercializing the invention.
Further, if the patent examiner asserts that your idea or process is not original, a patent attorney can help you overcome this determination by:
- Amending your application and supporting documents to overcome the examiner’s objections
- Negotiating with the examiner to persuade him or her that your invention meets patent law requirements
- Initiating the appeals process.
And once a patent is approved, the patent process is not over. How long does a patent last? It varies. But throughout the lifespan of the patent, the patent holder (or his or her patent attorney) has a continuing duty to track the use of the patent and licensing fees and to pay patent renewal fees as they arise.
Costs of Getting a Patent
Costs to file and maintain a patent vary greatly. The fees change regularly but current fees are always posted on the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website.
Other aspects of filing a patent application, getting it approved, and maintaining it that affect overall cost include:
- How many countries you intend to file an application in (this will affect maintenance costs as well);
- The complexity of the invention;
- The length of litigation before approval by the government patent office.
A patent attorney will help streamline and simplify this process to the extent it can be streamlined and simplified, especially on your end. This relieves you of the burden of maintaining your patent so you can focus on your business operations. Let the experienced patent attorneys at Paul and Paul help you file and maintain your patent – call us at 866-975-7231 or email us at email@example.com to schedule your consultation.
What is a Trademark?
A trademark is a recognizable and distinct word, mark, logo, color, sound, or smell that gives a specific identity to your business and that signifies your brand. It can be a name, symbol, word, device, or combination of a few or all of these. It can also be the packaging of a product and other marketing or promotional factors, called “trade dress.”. The purpose of a trademark is to distinguish the services or goods of one company from that of another for consumers.
There are different types of trademarks and a host of trademark laws that businesses and their attorneys must be familiar with. For more information read our blog article on the different types of Trademarks.
Why Do You Need an Experienced Trademark Attorney?
One does not have to register a trademark but it is prudent to do so in case you need to take legal action to protect it.
A trademark application must include a clear and unequivocal description of the trademark as well as a representation of it, and how it is used or appears with its associated products or services.
Outside counsel who specializes in trademark law, trademark applications, and trademark search services can help you prepare a successful application that protects your company’s brand identity. Paul & Paul can provide you with such counsel.
Problems with Trademarks
If the use of your trademark or a similar mark suggests a connection or link with your business or brand or creates a likelihood of customer confusion or association with your business or brand, then there may be grounds for an infringement lawsuit.
Costs of Getting a Trademark
Again, these are set by the USPTO, change periodically, and are listed here. Your total cost will depend upon whether your trademark is accepted or you need to appeal, and whether or not you need to register it internationally.
The trademark attorneys at Paul & Paul can help make sure the registration process goes smoothly for you, so no unnecessary expenses are incurred and your trademark is registered as quickly as possible. Contact us for help with your trademark.
What is a Trade Secret?
In legal terms, it is “a piece of information that has independent economic value by not being generally known and can reasonably be maintained a secret.” This could be an original process, food recipe, material, marketing plan, customer list, cost and price information, or anything else that is unique to your product or service that gives you a competitive edge and can be kept a secret.
Most states have adopted a form of the Uniform Trade Secrets Act defining trade secrets and setting forth the processes by which companies can protect them.
Why Do I Need an Attorney to Protect My Trade Secret?
It is the responsibility of the company having a trade secret to take “reasonable steps” internally to keep it secret. That process involves:
- Identifying what needs protection;
- Labeling documents related to the trade secret “confidential” and limiting access to them;
- Monitoring where information regarding the trade secret is stored and limit access;
- Password-protecting any computers storing trade secret information;
- Drafting and entering into confidentiality agreements with outside vendors;
- Securing physical evidence of the trade secret;
- Requiring employees to sign non-disclosure and non-compete agreements;
- Training employees in the secure handling of sensitive information.
The trademark attorneys at Paul & Paul have helped many companies draft procedures for the securing and handling of trade secrets as well as employee non-disclosure agreements and training. Contact us for help protecting your trade secrets.
Common Problems with Trade Secrets
The most common problem with trade secrets is the failure to adequately train employees to protect that information from disclosure, resulting in inadvertent disclosure. Another less common problem is theft of the trade secret by a vendor, international partner, or a disgruntled employee. Third, cyberattacks with the purpose of stealing trade secrets are becoming increasingly common.
If your trade secret is being used by a competitor for one of these reasons, or any other reason, we can help you litigate. A court of law will be much more sympathetic to a company which has taken all of the above steps to protect their trade secret, but were unsuccessful in preventing the theft or appropriation.
What is the Cost to Protect Trade Secrets?
Your initial cost to protect your trade secrets will be the hourly rate of your trade secret attorney, and the time it will take to train employees and monitor the effectiveness of your internal trade secret protection procedures.
Misappropriation of trade secrets is forbidden by the Uniform Trade Secrets Act (UTSA) and the Economic Espionage Act of 1996. The time you have to file a lawsuit against a competitor who is using your trade secret varies from three- to 5 years, depending upon the state. An experienced trade secret lawyer can help you determine where to file suit, craft your complaint, and prosecute your case. You may be entitled to injunctive relief (the competitor using your trade secret must cease), monetary damages for economic harm, punitive damages if the competitor’s conduct in obtaining and/or using the trade secret was egregious, and reasonable attorney’s fees and court costs.
What is a Copyright?
Copyrights protect original works of authorship. In other words, a copyright does not protect an idea, but the manner in which the idea is expressed. Commonly, written works, architectural drawings, art, photographs, music, and video games and other software, are copyrighted so that the owner can control the reproduction, performance, distribution, and adaptation of the work.
Common Problems with Copyrights
- Questions of Ownership, when not set out via contract between employer and employee;
- Website Design, which is creative design owned by the designer
- Creative Commons, Freeware, and Shareware, which can be controlled with licensing and other legal agreements;
- Term of Copyright Protection, which is the lifetime of the owner/creator;
- Foreign Breach of Copyright
- Copyright Exceptions, such as short works that might be better protected by trademark or patent.
Costs to Register a Copyright
A copyright attaches to a work when it becomes fixed in a tangible medium, but for maximum protection, it should be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. This can be done online and requires a sample of the work as well as background information about the author. Fees change periodically but currently vary between $45 and $125. You can pay more if you need to expedite your application.
Why do I need a Copyright Attorney?
Copyright infringement is prosecuted under 28 U.S. Code § 1498. Patent and copyright cases. The copyright owner must show that the defendant intentionally breached a copyright for profit.
We have successfully prosecuted many copyright cases, winning our clients an injunction forbidding further use and monetary damages.
We Can Help You Protect Your Intellectual Property
We can help you determine which type of intellectual property you have and what you need to do to legally protect it. We can then register or file or litigate your patent, trademark, or copyright, or help you create the policies, procedures, documents, and employee training that will protect your trade secret.
In cases of misappropriation or infringement, we will zealously prosecute on your behalf. Contact us if you have any questions about your intellectual property.