I frequently speak with individuals who believe they have come up with a new invention and want to protect it with a patent, but have no idea of how to go about obtaining a patent. The patenting process can be complicated if it is not something you deal with day-to-day. The following are some questions on the patent process I frequently hear.
First of all, what is a patent? I sometimes speak with individuals who believe they must first get a patent for their invention before they can make and sell the invention. That is not entirely accurate. The patent is a right granted by the United States Government to an inventor to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the inventor’s invention throughout the United States or importing the inventor’s invention into the United States for use or sale. The right is granted by the government for a limited period of time in exchange for the inventor publicly disclosing the invention in the granted patent. Note that the right is granted by the United States Government and therefore the patent only has effect in the United States. I at times get questions on whether a United States patent has any effect in other countries, for example Canada, which it does not. (more…)
I often speak with owners of small businesses or start ups that want to protect their new product or ideas from being copied by competitors. Some tell me they would like to copyright their new product or idea. Some tell me they need a trademark for their new product or idea. And some say they need a patent for their new product or idea. So, which is it?
Intellectual property law, or copyright, trademark and patent law is a subject that usually doesn’t come up in the day-to-day conversation of entrepreneurs, so it is understandable that they are unsure of whether they need a copyright, a trademark or a patent to protect their new product or idea. The following provides some basic information on the three types of intellectual property and what they protect. (more…)
Clients often ask me: “Can we trademark this?” or “Should we trademark this?”
I respond bluntly, but politely: “In the United States, we do not “trademark” anything.”
Admittedly, I can be an annoying verbal perfectionist. However, the true reason I respond bluntly is because it genuinely matters to me that my clients fully understand the core, easily graspable principles of how trademark and service mark rights are created. A long-winded (i.e., “typical lawyer”) explanation, with caveats, disclaimers and war stories would thwart that objective. As a matter of fundamental branding acumen and saving attorneys’ fees, all businesses must to understand how marks (i.e., their brands) are created. Startup companies should have this understanding right from the beginning, particularly if they have a near term exit strategy as part of their start up strategy. (more…)