Beard St. Clair has extensive experience both in establishing intellectual property rights for clients and enforcing those rights. Intellectual property rights are always an important consideration when inventing and starting or operating a business. Many times, intellectual property rights can be extremely valuable and constitute the greatest asset of a company. When someone attempts to use a patented invention, trademark, or copyrighted material, that person can be sued and an injunction issued prohibiting the person from further use of the patented invention, trademark, or copyright.
Patent, trademark, and copyright laws are very complex and it is extremely important that people seeking assistance in this area retain a law firm that has experience with intellectual property.
Granted patents allow inventors to exclude others from making, using, importing, or selling their inventions. Without a patent, any new idea for an invention could enter the public domain where anyone can use it. Accordingly, patents are essential when it comes to protecting novel inventions. There are multiple types of patents, with the two most common patents being design and utility patents.
A design patent protects the ornamental design of an invention and has a 15-year term from the date of grant. Design patents are useful in preventing others from designing an invention that looks similar to a patented design. The process of receiving a design patent can be less difficult than that of a utility patent.
Instead of protecting the ornamental design of an invention, a utility patent protects machines, processes, articles of manufacture, or compositions of matter and has a 20-year term from the filing date. Under the utility patent umbrella, an inventor may file a provisional patent application and/or a non-provisional patent application. Provisional patent applications are placeholder applications, allowing an inventor to have a filing date, “patent pending” status, and time to manufacture and market the invention. A provisional patent application is not reviewed by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and expires after 12 months. In order to claim priority to the provisional patent application, a non-provisional patent application must be filed before the provisional application expires. Non-provisional patent applications contain claims to define the scope of the invention and are examined by the USPTO. Once the application is granted, an inventor may then enjoy the rights associated with an issued patent.
Whether or not you should seek patent rights is always an important decision and should be discussed with a patent attorney.
A trademark, and its companion, service mark, is ownership in a name, or logo, or other symbol that designates the source of a product or business. For example, “Microsoft®” is a trademark which designates that certain products or services are manufactured or sold by the company and no one else. Trademarks are usually denoted by the familiar symbols ®, for a registered mark, or ™, for a common law mark. Before a trademark can be issued, there must be a comprehensive state and federal trademark search to determine if someone else is already using the mark.
Copyrights show ownership rights in works that are authored, such as books, advertising material, blueprints, photographs, computer software and so on. Unlike trademarks and patents, copyrights arise at the time of authorship and can be effective simply by indicating, in some fashion, that the material is copyrighted. Additionally, copyrights can be formally registered and are usually denoted by the symbol ©.