August 2009

Patent Infringement

In order to encourage the advancement of science and technology, the federal government gives an incentive to inventors to disclose new ideas that have been embodied in inventions by granting a patent, a temporary right to exclude others from making, using, selling, offering to sell, or importing the patented invention without the inventor’s permission. Activity that encroaches upon the right given by a patent is said to infringe the patent, for which an inventor may bring a lawsuit in order to obtain a remedy. 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.

Design Patents

Under United States patent law, there are three different types of patents issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The first and most commonly known patent is the Utility Patent. Utility Patents apply to functional inventions like machines, apparatuses processes, or compositions of matter, and correspond to the common understanding of patentable subject matter. Patents may also be issued on new varieties of asexually produced cultivated plants and on designs. If you feel you have rights that are being infringed, you should consider scheduling a meeting with one of our patent attorneys.

Trademark Law

The “(r)” may be used if a trademark is registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The “TM” symbol may be used for a product that is not yet registered with the USPTO. The “SM” symbol may be used with a service that is not yet registered with the USPTO. To help determine if a Mark is available for protection or to help register your Mark, please contact one of our Trademark Attorneys.

Trademark Priority

In the United States, subject to one exception, trademark rights arise from use in commerce, regardless of whether or not the mark is registered. The first user of a mark generally takes priority over all subsequent users with respect to use of the mark in that market. If you have questions about this or any other aspect of trademark protection, contact one of our trademark attorneys for more information.

Copyrighting Ideas and Facts

Copyright law protects the tangible expression of ideas and facts, not the ideas and facts themselves. Copyright protects only fixed, original and creative expression, not the underlying ideas or facts upon which the expression is based. Works that have not been fixed are just ideas and ideas are fair game for everyone to express in their own words. Allowing authors to monopolize their ideas would defeat the underlying purpose of copyright law, which is to encourage people to create new work. While, the expression of ideas in writing or in drawings may be protected by a copyright in the description, the copyright will not protect the idea itself. This exclusion helps maintain the distinction between copyright protection and patent law. Ideas and inventions are the subject matter for patents, while the expression of ideas is governed by copyright law. If copyright were extended to protect ideas, principles and devices, then it would be possible to circumvent the rigorous prerequisites of patent law and secure protection for an invention merely by describing the invention in a copyrightable work. Contact a copyright specialists at The Intellectual Property Center for more information.