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Archive for the ‘Patents & Copyrights’ Category

Do I need to copyright my company name?

Monday, February 4th, 2008

The purpose of copyright law is stated clearly and defined in the following manner: “Copyright is a form of intellectual property law, protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture. Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed. Copyright does not protect names, titles, slogans, or short phrases. In some cases, these things may be protected as trademarks.” If you are confused about what copyright law covers, you can contact the United States Patent and Trademark Office, for further information.

As stated in the copyright explanation, your company name is not protected under copyright law. However, the United States Patent and Trademark Office does offer such protection. According to the USPTO website, “a trademark includes any word, name, symbol, or device, or any combination used, or intended to be used, in commerce to identify and distinguish the goods of one manufacturer or seller from goods manufactured or sold by others, and to indicate the source of the goods. In short, a trademark is a brand name.”

Companies like Nike, Gatorade, Apple and Microsoft have issued trademarks on their company names and therefore are protected under the law from being used or mentioned without their consent.

You should apply for a trademark for your company name, based on this information. Conveniently, you can fill out an application online and file it over the Internet using their Trademark Electronic Application System. Trademark Applications and Registrations Retrieval database lets you dig through registered trademarks so that you don’t attempt to duplicate a brand name or company name that has already been established. The system also lets you check on the status of your own application as well.

Trademark rights can be used to prevent others from using the same company name, but they cannot prevent others from making or selling the same goods and services from under a completely different name. The purpose of a copyright is to protect works of authorship as a fixed form of expression. There may be some occasions when both copyright and trademark protection is required. For example, a marketing campaign for a new sports product may also introduce a new slogan for use with the product. Both the slogan and the produce will appear in the advertisement. In this particular case, copyright and trademark protection will deal with different aspects of the advertisement. The advertisement’s text and graphics, as published in print, television, radio or the Internet, will be covered by copyright — but this will not protect the slogan as such. Trademark law may protect the slogan, but it will not cover the rest of the advertisement. If you want both forms of protection, you will have to perform both types of registration.

If you are interested in protecting your company name, a slogan or other word or phrase, you will need to look into getting a trademark. Your company name is not protected under copyright law.

Patent FAQs

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

What does patent pending and patent applied for mean?

These terms are used by a seller or manufacturer of an item to tell the public that they have applied for a patent on the item and that it is on file with the US Patent and Trademark Office.

Is there any way that the US Patent and Trademark Office will share information in my application while it is pending?

No – your application is held in the strictest of confidence by the US Patent and Trademark Office until the application is published or the patent is issued. A member of the public may request a copy of the application file after the application has been published and when the patent is issued a copy of it may be purchased from the US Patent and Trademark Office.

Can I write to the US Patent and Trademark Office about my filed application?

Yes, you can inquire about the status of your application with the US Patent and Trademark Office. However if you have an attorney, all inquiries should go through them as the US Patent and Trademark Office will not correspond with both you and your attorney.

Do I have to go to the US Patent and Trademark Office to do business with patents?

No, most of the business is done by written correspondence.

The patent I have was done with more than one person – who will the patent be granted to?

The patent will be jointly given to the people who are joint inventors. However if only one of the people had the ideas for the invention in order for someone else to make it, the patent will be in the name of the person with the original idea.

Does the US Patent and Trademark Office control the fees that are charged by attorneys and lawyers for the services they provide?

No, the US Patent and Trademark Office doesn’t control the fees, this is between you and your lawyer.

Do I have to find an attorney myself or can the US Patent and Trademark Office help me with that?

You have to find your own attorney yourself to help you with your patent application.

Are there organizations that can help me with assistance in developing and marketing my invention?

Yes, there may be some organizations in your area that can help you.

Is there a state government agency to help me with development and marketing of my invention?

Yes, in most states there are planning and development agencies that seek out new product inventions and process ideas. You can look up the information in the phone book or call your governor for more information.

Can the US Patent and Trademark Office help me with the marketing and development of my patent product?

No, the US Patent and Trademark Office can’t help you with any of the business transactions that are involved with the marketing or development of a new invention.

Do I need an attorney to file for a patent?

It’s always a good idea to run this type of business through an attorney. It’s not impossible to do it yourself, but the documentation is quite complex and complicated.

What International Protections do patents offer me?

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

When you file for a patent, it is granted by the national patent office or by a regional patent office. Under some regional systems, such as the European Patent Office and the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization, you can request protection for your patent in one or more countries. Each county decides whether or not it will offer you a patent protection in their country.

There are no ‘world patents’ or ‘international patents’ in existence at this time. Usually, you file for a patent and it is then granted and enforced or denied. You would have to do this in each country that you seek protection for your invention, keeping with the laws of each individual country. Each country is different in their requirements for granting patents and each country has its own fee schedule as well.

The best bet for the most protection with your invention and patents internationally is to contact an experienced patent attorney who specializes in intellectual property in each of the countries you are interested in gaining a patent in.

It can be quite pricey to have a patent in many countries, but if your patent is extreme and innovative, it may be worth it. You don’t want people across the borders of the US to infringe on your patent and come up with a similar idea on their own, which they likely got from you.

Remember, that once a patent is published, any person can access that file and once the patent is granted, anyone can purchase the publication.

The best person to help you with the decision about how many countries you should seek out a patent in is a patent attorney. They will be able to help you ascertain if your patent should be internationally patented or if only your home country should be considered. A patent attorney will also be able to help you choose amongst the countries that should be chosen.

It’s not an easy task to seek out international patents – the same procedures are in effect in most countries, which means that you would have to search the country’s patents to see if any are in effect already which are the same or similar to yours. This process can take a long time, however it may very well be worth it in the end. Infringing on a patent in any country can leave you with literally nothing if the offended company or person decides to sue you for damages for using their idea and infringing on their patent.

The easiest thing for you as an inventor to do is hire a patent attorney to help you out. Your attorney can then search the patent databases of other countries to see if any similar patents exist. It may be better to have your patent attorney do that anyway so that you can be sure that your invention is indeed innovative, useful and new.

Do I need a patent?

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

A patent is a right of property granted by the United States to an inventor for his invention which prevents and excludes other people from using, making, offering for sale or selling the invention. Only the actual inventor of a product/invention can file for a patent.

There are some restrictions on what type of products can be patented. Only utility patents are provide for something that is new, not obvious and useful for:

Articles of manufacture
Compositions of matter
Improvements to any of the above.

There are things that can also not be patented and they include:

Any laws of nature
Physical phenomena
Literary, musical, artistic or dramatic works – however they can be copyright protected.
Or, inventions which are:
  Not useful
  Offensive to public morality

Patented products must be:

· Not obvious

· A novel idea

· Sufficiently described or enabled

· Claimed by the inventor in clear terms.

The first step in figuring out if you need a patent is to see if it qualifies and if there is no other thing like it already patented. You will have to search all of the previous public disclosures to figure out if your invention has already been patented. Then you need to familiarize yourself with the basics of the patenting process. The best thing to do is to hire a patent attorney to help you with all the processes involved in applying for a patent. However you can muddle through the process on your own, including doing your own search for other patents that may be the same as, or conflict with the one you propose. It is important to note that it is quite difficult to do the search and file for a patent on your own; your best bet is to hire an attorney to help you with the search and filing.

A patent that has been filed after June 8, 1995 for utility and plant patents are granted for a term that ends 20 years after the first filing date and is subject to maintenance fees. Design patents last for 14 years from the date the patent is granted and has no maintenance fees.

A patent attorney is the best person to help you with all of your patent processing needs, including gaining a full patent, filing for the patent and above all, searching for other existing patents. The patent process is long and arduous and quite complex and daunting for someone who is not a patent lawyer. A lawyer can help you out immensely with the process and ensure that it is done right so that you don’t have to worry about patent infringement or copyright infringement on other people’s inventions. Infringing on a patent can be quite severe if the other person, people or company can prove that you did not do your due diligence to find an existing patent, or that you found it and ignored it. The penalties that are awarded by the courts can literally ruin you for life financially and socially.

Copyright FAQs

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

A lot of people are interested in copyright law, for a lot of different reasons. Maybe you’re looking to buy exclusive rights to a song you wrote. Maybe you want to download copyrighted songs on the Internet. Whatever the case, there aren’t any hard and fast rules about copyrights – the reality is copyright law is complicated and extensive. But here are some frequently asked questions to help you better understand copyright and where you fit into it all.

·          What can be copyrighted?

Essentially, any creation that shows skill, originality and effort was put into it can be copyrighted. Short stories, novels, handbooks, software, video games, radio broadcasts, songs, recordings, poems, etc… there isn’t much that’s off limits. You can’t copyright a mere idea though. Copyright is focused on the form of expression and not necessarily the basic content. As well, trademarks and patents cover some territory that copyrights don’t, like inventions and logos.

·          What do you get out of a copyright?

You get exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute, and display the work and enforce the law if another person or entity infringes on these rights. As well, you can always sell and negotiate these rights too.

·          How do you get these special rights?

Well, you may already have them and not realize it. You don’t have to register your copyright with the US Patent Office in order to benefit from it in a court of law or in other situations. However, if you do register a copyright, it’s just easier to defend it as you simply have hard evidence of your copyright! Luckily, copyright law comes into play automatically. For instance, if you just wrote a song, you have the rights to it already – whether you actively pursue a formal copyright or not!

·          Is my copyright protected overseas?

For the most part – yes. The United States and many other countries decided to standardize copyright law and respect each other’s policies. However, this doesn’t include every country. Make sure to find out what countries are in line with the U.S before you conduct International business.

·          What’s the difference between a trademark and a copyright?

Copyright is concerned with forms of expression, like a music or literary work or perhaps a photo. However, if you’re trying to make your band name official or promote an advertising slogan, you’ll need to trademark it – not copyright it.

·          Is filesharing illegal?

Filesharing, in itself, is not illegal. This is why operators of file sharing programs are typically not doing anything wrong. However, it’s when the files shared contain copyrighted material that it gets a lot more problematic. Yes, sharing a copyrighted song over the Internet is against the law!

Now that you’ve got the basics out of the way, you can begin the process of preregistration and registration of your copyright if you so choose. You can register your copyright with the US Patent Office. All you’ll need to do is fill out some paperwork, submit the copy in question, and have about $45 on hand.

The Pros and Cons of Obtaining a Copyright

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

When you obtain a copyright, you obtain exclusive rights over an original work, whether it be a simple idea or more detailed information. That’s quite a broad definition, isn’t it? Indeed, all kinds of “creations” have the potential to be copyrighted: musicals, plays, songs, books, poems, paintings, recordings, handbooks, software, etc. Essentially, when something is created, its creator gets protection via a copyright.

Now, copyright law is sometimes tricky and difficult to learn. For instance, let’s say you have a copyrighted poem on your hands that is focused on nature. Does this mean nature is copyrighted? Well, of course not! American citizens would be outraged if this were the case. Only the poem is copyrighted. While this example is clear, others aren’t and that’s when copyright law can get complicated. Luckily, what’s true in one country is often true in another, as copyright laws are understood to mean the same thing across the globe.

So, now that you know the basics, the real question is: should I obtain a copyright? Certainly if you have a valuable creation, you should. Valuable is subjective, however, as your work might be important to you but not necessarily earn you money. Either way, if the work is original enough to fit into the requirements for copyrighting, it might benefit you to move forward with the formal copyrighting porcess. Perhaps the better question is: when should I not obtain a copyright?

Well, the fortunate reality is you may already have a copyright and not even know it. Just as with trademarks, copyrights may innately exist, which means you’ll own the rights to them! Perhaps you wrote a short story. Do you have to get it formally copyrighted in order to protect it from being misused by others? No – and you shouldn’t. As long as you can prove you wrote the story and the writing process involved skill and originality, you’ll probably make it out of court okay. However, if you register your copyright, your chances are even better. A registered copyright is a wonderful, compelling piece of evidence and it even allows a copyright owner to sue for more damages. So if you have a high chance of ending up in court, you might as well save yourself some trouble down the road and register your copyright.

If you want more security and exclusive rights to your copyright, it’s best to obtain one in a formal way. Especially if the work in question was created “for hire,” you’ll want to obtain a copyright so as to encourage proper use of it. For instance, a composer might write a concerto, but does that mean he or she has exclusive rights to the concerto? Not always – the composer might be for hire and thus the copyright transfers to another. If this is the situation you’re dealing with, you will definitely want to obtain a copyright.

Copyright law is quite extensive, but hopefully now that you’ve grazed the surface of it, you have a better idea about whether or not to pursue a copyright.

File sharing: Caring or Copyright Infringement?

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

The Internet, and filesharing in particular, has caused quite a stir in several industries, as copyright law has been put to the test as a result. Whether it’s music, movies, software, or literature, people are downloading copyrighted works online every day and only a handful have ever been taken to court over it. What’s going on here?

We all remember how the filesharing giant Napster was taken down because of copyright infringement, but the reality is lots of Napster-like filesharing programs have popped up in its place and their operators have found ways to avoid legal responsibility. And indeed, it is the file sharers that are typically at risk – not the operators of the file sharing program.

So what does that mean for your neighbor or coworker or perhaps even you, who loves to download music online? It may not mean much at all. File sharing is so widespread these days, that organizations like the RIAA can’t possibly enforce copyright laws across the board. But that doesn’t mean you aren’t breaking the law.

In the late 90’s, President Clinton signed into law the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. There needed to be new law to address new technology; it’s been a difficult task preserving old copyrights, because the ease of copyright infringement increases as the number of Internet users goes up every year. Even with new policies, filesharing and copyrights are still very much a big national debate and you can probably find a bunch of news stories on the topic from week to week, all relating to how the debate is gradually changing over time.

College students typically face more risk at being called to task for sharing files, as compared to the rest of the population. This is because universities are also Internet Service Providers and they are  more compelled to hand over the IP addresses of file sharing students when a powerful organization like the RIAA breathes down their necks. Consequently, young people have been aggressively sued and forced to pay up to thousands of dollars out of court. For a few, filesharing has been rather costly and a painful lesson to learn. For the rest of us, at least right now, the risk appears minimal. Be wary, though – the RIAA, specifically, wants to change that – so what’s easy to do today may be difficult to do tomorrow.

This is why keeping up with filesharing news is so important; whether you want to know what’s legal and what’s illegal or whether you’re an artist simply trying to protect your creation, copyright law is constantly being challenged in new ways, thanks to filesharing. Many musicians have embraced file sharing and used it for their own betterment, while others have been audibly offended by it (take the band Metallica for instance).

Parents usually tell their kids to share when they’re little, but should they encourage them to share files online? Probably not! But where do you cross the line between innocuous communication between Internet users and copyright infringement? There doesn’t seem to be a clear answer to this yet, but there are enough private interests who want an answer soon.  

Is a copyright attorney right for you?

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

Copyright law is something that you could devote an entire class or book to and still end up with an incomplete picture of it. Especially in today’s world of sophisticated technology and the World Wide Web, copyrights have become all the more complicated and confusing. Why not talk get a copyright attorney on your side who can sharpen the picture for you?

An attorney won’t simply be your go-to guy in court; he or she can help you sort out all kinds of issues involving your copyright and hopefully prevent you from ever having to sue anyone in the first place.

First off, there is the painful process of copyright search that ought to be performed before you get an original creation copyrighted. In other words, does your yet-to-be copyrighted poem closely resemble a poem that’s already been copyrighted? A copyright attorney is skilled at answering questions like these and unless you have the time and money to do so yourself, it might be best to hire one on board. If you then want to register your copyright, an attorney can guide you through those steps as well.

However, if this is the beginning and end of your experience with copyrights, an attorney may just end up a wasted expense. It’s if your story continues that there’s little debate that you will need some outside help in the form of a copyright attorney.

So when is a copyright attorney truly invaluable? If there’s been unauthorized use of your copyright or perhaps if you’re on the other side and are being accused of misusing a copyright, then you need a copyright attorney. How else can you properly defend your exclusive rights? When a copyright is registered, it’s a lot easier to defend it in court, and an attorney will appreciate this. However, if your copyright is unregistered, you’ll run into more than a few snags and it’s during this time, specifically, that a copyright attorney will be crucial to the success of your case.

A copyright is a type of intellectual property and that means you have to watch over it with care. Chances are people will want to negotiate with you about use of it and unless you have a copyright attorney with you to help you out, these negotiations will mean little. How important is your copyright to you? Depending on your answer to this question, you’ll know how important a copyright attorney is to you too