April 2009

Patent Law

Patent protection is provided by federal law through the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and gives a patent owner the right to exclude others from making, using, selling, distributing or importing the subject of the patent for a certain period of time. Only certain things may be patented, and there are several requirements that an invention or other subject of a patent application must meet in order to be eligible to receive patent protection. One of the most basic requirements is novelty, or newness. The purpose of the novelty requirement is to prevent the patenting of inventions that have become widely known and used, which are said to have entered the public domain, and to carry out the general principle that the first person to create an invention is entitled to patent it. If you have an invention and would like to determine if is patentable, call or email to schedule a meeting with one of our patent attorneys.

Marking Patented Products

After a patent is issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, the patent owner may mark the patented articles with the word “Patent” or the abbreviation “Pat.” along with the patent number assigned by the USPTO. This marking of the patent number on the product constitutes notification of the patent, which is essential to a monetary recovery in a patent action. Although that patent statute states that a patent owner “may give notice” of the patent by marking the patented article, monetary damages for the infringement of an unmarked item can only be recovered from the time that the alleged infringer has been notified of the infringement by a cease and desist letter, by service of a summons and a copy of the complaint, or by other means. In such a case, if the alleged infringer ceases the infringing activity immediately upon notification, a monetary recovery could not be had at all in an infringement suit. If you feel you have rights that are being infringed, you should consider scheduling a meeting with one of our patent attorneys.

Trade Names vs. Trademarks

The term ”trade name” means any name used by a person to identify his or her business or vocation. ”Trade name” refers mainly to the corporate, partnership or other name of a business. The business may, in turn, market goods or services under one or more trademarks or service marks. To help determine if a Mark is available for protection or to help register your Mark, please contact one of our Trademark Attorneys.

Trademarking Internet Domain Names

Generally, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has applied traditional trademark law to the examination of domain name service mark applications. A domain name qualifies as a mark when it is used in connection with the sale or advertising of goods or services. This includes all sites conducting e-commerce and also sites that provide Web-related services. Unlike a trademark, which is restricted by country and class of goods, domain names can be global and not limited by goods or service. If you have questions about this or any other aspect of trademark protection, contact one of our trademark attorneys for more information.

Copyright Infringement vs. Plagiarism

Copyright infringement occurs when someone other than the copyright holder reproduces a work without the permission of the copyright holder. Excessive use of another’s original work, even if the source is properly acknowledged, may be a copyright infringement. Copyright infringement is a violation of federal law. Wholesale copying of copyrighted material is an infringement of a property right, and legal remedies are available to the copyright holder. But the copying of brief passages, even from copyrighted materials, is permissible under the doctrine of “fair use,” while wholesale copying from material that is in the public domain, which may be material that never was copyrighted or material on which the copyright has expired, presents no copyright issue at all. Contact a copyright specialists at The Intellectual Property Center for more information.