Category: Intellectual property


What Does a Copyright Protect?

While it may seem ridiculous to have to register your own ideas to own them, it isn’t really that complicated in the beginning; you are the owner of any expressions of artistic work as soon as you create them! Even without getting outside help or registering with a government entity such as the U.S. Copyright Office, a work of literature or music is instantaneously copyrighted to you. And while there may not be any paperwork to prove this, most likely you are in possession of the item and for anyone else to try and copyright it is either a highly coincidental occurrence or they have stolen the work from you.

Some individuals will take the extra step to create what is often referred to as a poor man’s copyright, mailing themselves a copy of a work or having it established with a notary and a signature and a date bearing evidence of the origins and date. Even that is not necessary though. As soon as you have written that screenplay, as soon as it is on paper with your name attached to it, the copyright is yours. It must, however, be a physical item—an idea or concept is not enough for a copyright and cannot be protected as such.

Intellectual property can be extremely valuable in some cases and should be protected. With the common law copyright, you are given some assurances that no one else can steal your work, but you could be on very shaky ground if you were forced to take legal action against another party for infringement. If you register your work, you then have exclusive rights to copy or distribute your work as you wish, make a sequel or follow-up work to the original, or display the work in the public or take it one step further by making a book or other expression into something like a play.

With proper registration, anyone infringing upon you could face penalties; in some cases, however, you may wish to license a copyright, trademark, service mark or other intellectual property to someone else, give permission for them to use your work, or you may even want to sell your copyrighted work. Other examples of works protected by copyright include:

  • Software programs
  • Architectural plans
  • Buildings
  • Choreography
  • Sculpture
  • Sound recordings

The Bolender Law Firm can assist you in all intellectual property matters. Call us at 310-320-0725 now or submit an easy consultation request online. We are here to help!

Trade Secrets: Your Team Must Understand the Importance of Protecting Them

To say that running a business is a multi-faceted endeavor would be a great understatement–not to mention complexities such as creating and protecting trade secrets. The list of pros and cons is lengthy, and in many cases could be considered a draw. Still though, hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs in the US continue, watching their dreams become reality as they open offices, offer products and services to consumers in need, and put together teams of employees all meant to be working toward the same goal: running a successful business.

Employees Should Have Guidelines to Refer To

Any company is only as good as its employees, and as the boss—it is up to you to train your people and make sure they really understand your mission statement, are well-trained at what they do, encouraged to keep innovating and making the business better, as well as being thoroughly apprised of all policies and procedures. For a company of any size, it is vital to have a manual (this may be small depending on how many people you hire—or it may be a larger tome) that new employees, as well as those who have been there for a longer amount of time, can refer to. And while all typical daily issues should be covered, as well as benefits and more, confidentiality should also be discussed in terms of products and services. This should include intellectual property.

You may think it is common sense for your team to keep what happens at work contained within those walls, but often employees are excited and proud of what they are working on, or perhaps even tired and frustrated, but this can lead them to discuss what they are working on with family members, friends outside of the company, and others who may even be in competition with you ((if not presently, in the future, and especially if they get the idea that you are onto something good). Everyone should understand that all intellectual property is owned by the business and trade secrets are to remain exactly that. And if you are serious about taking legal action against those who may compromise your intellectual property, make it clear.

Protecting Your Business is Key

Business is business, and this means you must protect your company’s innovations at all cost. Monitoring all projects going on is critical, and even those of the people you trust the most. Make sure you have a good feel for what is going on with everyone in your circle, as well as continually checking in with managers who may work for you too. Keeping leaks from happening means being vigilant about what information comes and goes through office doors—as well as continually making sure that your team is aware of what they are cannot share, even when they may have signed a confidentiality agreement. And that agreement is necessary! This gives you the right to pursue legal action later should you need to sue someone for infringement of your intellectual property.

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The Bolender Law Firm can assist you in all intellectual property matters. Call us at 310-320-0725 now or submit an easy consultation request online. We are here to help!

Selling Your Business Patent

Looking back on every business you went into over the past week to complete errands or make purchases, consider that each one of them (even the franchises!) sprang originally from a dream, an idea, a concept in someone’s mind that could eventually turn into an invention requiring a business patent. Coupled with drive and determination, that idea turned into a real product or service, situated at a real business site—with all the real responsibilities of bringing in clients, maintaining capital, managing employees, and more.

And while you are probably a customer at many other businesses on a regular basis, you may also be an entrepreneur running a company of your own where it is so easy to get caught up in the daily grind that you forget what the original inspiration or motivation was to begin with. Staying fresh and continuing to innovate is vital to any business though, and while you may have trademarks or service marks already in place—perhaps even copyrights—you, your employees, or independent contractors may also be continuing to create intellectual property like patents.

A patent is defined by the United States Patent and Trademark Office as an invention which can be divided into three categories: utility, design, or plant (and yes, that literally refers to the discovery or creation of a new plant). Once you have registered for a patent—and it is highly recommended that you work with an intellectual property attorney in doing so—you may have a bit of a wait, anywhere from a matter of months to almost two years on average, and very possibly even longer. A patent is usually good for around 20 years and means that you have the sole rights to manufacturing and distribution.

In some cases, you may have a patent that you want to sell—or you may want to grant licensing rights. While selling it is a great way to make income that could perhaps fund another invention, it is permanent. Speak to your attorney about the best route for your business, along with the legalities of selling it, along with considering whether your better option would be to sell licensing and perhaps collect royalties. Working with another entity for licensing can be tricky so do not go it alone when negotiating agreements and drafting contracts.

The Bolender Law Firm can assist you in all intellectual property matters. Call us at 310-320-0725 now or submit an easy consultation request online. We are here to help!

business trademark

Renewing Your Business Trademark

There are so many elements to running a business, and if you are operating a new start-up or running a business by yourself, several priorities take precedent over everything else in the beginning. You must have a place to operate your business and getting this squared away can be full-time for a while, whether you are buying or renting; either way, you must deal with real estate or leasing agents, finances, contracts, and make some big decisions. A business model must already be in place too—and it may be requested by either the bank or a potential landlord as they seek assurance that you will be able to pay your bills. Most importantly, you must have capital to get the ball rolling—and keep it rolling! This will pave the way for success and allow you to hire a team and purchase inventory and keep doing so.

The Trademark May Become Integral to Your Brand

Once you have the essentials lined up, everything else will fall into place—to include advertising, marketing, and setting goals for your employees. Whether you have a full-time team in place or are working with independent contractors—or a mixture thereof—projects will be on-going and creating intellectual property will be important as you go on. Items such as the trademark may be vital to your business early on, however, as they give the public a way to familiarize themselves with your brand and may even invoke a certain emotion in customers when they see your logo or symbol. And while this may just be a simple idea in the beginning as your brand is born, be aware that your intellectual property can be extremely valuable later—which is why you should protect your trademark by registering it with the United States Patent and Trademark Office from the beginning, even if it is somewhat protected by common law from the moment you create it.

Renew Your Trademark for Indefinite Use

A trademark can be extremely beneficial to your business, and it is also long-lasting if you keep up with renewals. Starting out, this intellectual property protection is good for ten years, and then as long as you keep up with the required paperwork and keep renewing it, your trademark is protected indefinitely in ten-year stretches. If you fail to meet the renewal dates, it will be canceled by the USPTO.

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The Bolender Law Firm can assist you in all intellectual property matters. Call us at 310-320-0725 now or submit an easy consultation request online. We are here to help!

Registering with the USPTO: What if Someone Already Has the Same Trademark as Mine?

Intellectual property can be exciting to create—and especially when you realize you are onto something truly innovative that will be in demand from the public. Along with everything your business owns over time, you may realize that it is one of your greatest assets, and one that must be protected with great care.

Trademarks Are a Very Common Form of Intellectual Property

While copyrights protect artistic expressions and patents grant rights to inventors, the trademark is one of the most ubiquitous forms of intellectual property—so much so that you may not even realize you are recognizing a company unconsciously in the blink of an eye, due to a basic symbol on a website or street sign. And if you think of trademarks for some of the most famous companies in the world, you may be amazed at the simplicity of their logos or crests. Unfortunately, legal issues can arise when it comes to intellectual property, and although it does become yours (or that of your business) as soon as you bring it into inception, registering it gives you much greater protection if someone infringes on what you believe to be yours.

Be Aware of Other Trademarks Like Yours

Before you register your trademark or service mark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, consult with an intellectual property attorney from a firm like the Bolender Law Firm to research whether or not there is already something identical or similar in place that could lead to legal headaches later. Although your attorney will be able to advise you further on registration issues, most likely if there is another trademark or service mark that resembles yours and is owned by another company offering the same types of products and services, it will be rejected by the USPTO. State-to-state searches may be recommended as well.

While the registration process may take anywhere from three months to a year or more, you could be protecting one of the most important facets of your brand—a valuable commodity in the modern business world. Work with your attorney to make sure you are setting yourself up for success with a strong mark and an understanding of what you need to do to continue to protect your trademark throughout the years.

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The Bolender Law Firm can assist you in all intellectual property matters. Call us at 310-320-0725 now or submit an easy consultation request online. We are here to help!

Intellectual Property: Why Trademark Clearance Searches Are in Your Best Interest

Intellectual property could prove to be one of your most valuable assets many years from now. If your company is new, establishing a solid brand may be on your list of goals, but it probably seems like something you won’t need to worry about protecting for a while; after all, building a business is usually centered around building capital and a clientele.

Research Before Attempting to Register

Marketing is key, however, and that logo or symbol that you created to denote familiarity with your company may be with you for the long run. It could be something extremely simple too, keeping in mind designs like the swish or the arches that draw customers back year after year to spend billions! You may need a trademark for an extremely professional branding mechanism like a logo or even a crest, word, or phrase that allows the public to understand what you are selling. Along with this come service marks too, different because they designate services offered by your company, rather than the products.

Although intellectual property belongs to you as soon as you create it, consult with your intellectual property attorney about protecting it the right way, registering with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Before doing so, however, it is important to have your attorney run a search on the current trademarks (and service marks) already in existence. Knowing what is already out there will let you know what you might be up against should there be any sort of infringement issue. Having something that is similar or identical could cause legal problems for you, and conversely, once your trademark is registered, it makes it difficult for someone else to infringe on your tools for branding your business.

Understand What Type of Protection You Need

Once you do have a registered trademark through the USPTO, it is usually good forever, but you must continue to use it and pay for continued registration as required for ten-year terms. Other types of intellectual property such as copyrights and patents can be applied for too, for relatively long periods of time, allowing you to protect your company further. Speak to your attorney about what licenses or registration are best for your intellectual property—you may be surprised at what you find out!

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The Bolender Law Firm can assist you in all intellectual property matters. Call us at 310-320-0725 now or submit an easy consultation request online. We are here to help!

poor man's copyright

Poor Man’s Copyright: How Does It Work?

If you are a new business owner, protecting intellectual property whether through registering it or using the poor man’s copyright may not be at the top of your list; in fact, you may wonder if you even have anything to worry about yet. Priorities in a budding company usually revolve around raising and maintaining enough capital, building a strong team, and bringing in the customers. There is a lot more to consider for the long term though, and branding is an enormous part of that, with a logo or symbol or perhaps a slogan to put out there as you work to build familiarity within your market. Copyrights though usually apply to items that you have created in an even more artistic fashion, whether your firm publishes literature, produces architectural works, designs graphics, makes software, or more.

If you have already made something you would like covered by a copyright, it may be surprising to find out that as soon as you brought it into existence, it became your intellectual property. This type of common law protection or ‘poor man’s copyright,’ means that you do have a leg to stand on legally if someone else tries to steal your work, however, it may be difficult to fight infringement without a true copyright if your nemesis is aggressive and has plentiful resources. Some believe that the best way to establish a poor man’s copyright is to establish a date by mailing a copy to yourself and leaving it in an unsealed package, or to have it notarized, or other methods that show when you created an original work. That is unnecessary, though, as the copyright is yours as soon as you have written that cookbook or built an architectural structure or other artistic work.

Protecting intellectual property, whether it belongs to you as an individual or a business, is worth it. In most cases, many hours or months—or sometimes years—went into building an artistic work that could become vulnerable if others tried to use it without your permission. Consulting with a skilled intellectual property attorney means that you can do a search to make sure no one else has anything similar already registered, along with giving you protection that lasts for your lifetime, plus 70 years in most cases. This type of public record, established through the U.S. Copyright Office, should give you ample legal recourse if a question arises or if someone begins using the copyright without an agreement.

The Bolender Law Firm can assist you in all intellectual property matters. Call us at 310-320-0725 now or submit an easy consultation request online. We are here to help!

your trademark

Your Trademark: What are the Benefits of Registering it Federally?

You may have heard the term ‘trademark’ bandied around forever—but perhaps not quite understood the nuances between that and other intellectual property. This is common for most of us, but the distinctions become apparent quickly when you start thinking about applying for protection of a mark that represents your brand.

Trademarks Apply to Your Brand

Trademarks apply directly to your business, while copyrights protect different forms of artistic work such as literature, movies, music, and even software and architecture. If you have invented something, as in a product or a process, you may want to apply for a patent. Trademarks are generally represented by logos or symbols, and they tend to draw customers to you over time due to their familiarity with your trademark as your brand continues to be marketed (quite heavily in some cases, depending on your business). Service marks, a subset of trademarks, may also be registered. The difference between a service mark and a trademark is that the service mark represents what your company offers to the public. Rather than just an emblem or a picture that reminds consumers who you are, the service mark tells them, with a slogan or short catch phrase.

Registering Your Trademark Protects Your Business Further

And while it is true that as soon as you create a trademark or service mark it is yours—and should be uniquely yours, registering it with the United States Patent and Trademark Office gives you more power to sue another party should they attempt to steal your mark or infringe on your design or company slogan. While such protection may not seem vital in the beginning, and you may feel like you have too many other things that are more important to deal with, taking care of your intellectual property could prove to be incredibly valuable later—not to mention saving you time from going to court or battling with another entity who has their eyes on your logo or slogan.

Once a trademark is approved (this could take up to a year), it is usually good for ten years and can be reinstated in ten-year increments. If you have intellectual property that you suspect needs protection, speak to a skilled intellectual property attorney as soon as possible. This will help steer you in the right direction regarding what type of application or registration is appropriate for your business, as well as helping you to streamline the whole process and make sure you are protected in the case that legal recourse was necessary.

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The Bolender Law Firm can assist you in all intellectual property matters. Call us at 310-320-0725 now or submit an easy consultation request online. We are here to help!

intellectual property

Intellectual Property: Does Common Law Really Play a Role?

While there are the numerous headaches that abound in creating a company, much of the process is incredibly exciting and fulfilling—especially if you are offering a new and unique product or service to the public. You or your company overall may also be responsible for creating valuable intellectual property. This could result in the need for copyright protection, warding off infringement of works such as art, literature, music, or even architecture or software. Trademarks or service marks are licensed for branding identifiable symbols or logos, or slogans that identify what you do.

Intellectual Property Belongs to You as Soon as You Create It

You may be surprised to find out, however, that as soon as you created that artistic expression or symbol of your brand, it became yours—with no further action required. Common law does indeed apply to items that fall under the definition of a copyright or a trademark or service mark and may even be enough of a defense if someone attempts to steal your work. What are the benefits of just allowing yourself to be covered by common law? One, it’s effortless. Two, there is no more expense involved, unless you are drawn into a costly legal battle to protect your intellectual property. Be aware though that protection only applies to use of the products or services within the area they are expected to be in use.

Registering Your Work is Recommended

Common law gives you basic rights to, and coverage for what you have created, but without going through the U.S. Copyright Office of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, you may be out of luck later if you find yourself in a situation where you are up against another party that stubbornly wants to use your material, and may have considerably more resources to steamroll over you. When your work is registered, it also shows up in searches when others are trying to find out whether there is something similar in existence; if you are not listed in that database, you could be opening yourself up to complication.

Figuring out how to protect your company’s intellectual property may seem like a daunting task, but with the help of an experienced intellectual property attorney, you can gain more of an understanding of how the process works, as well as its importance. An attorney will also be able to explain to you what types of licensing or registration to apply for and take care of it for you. While you may not see a dire need currently, this type of protection could prove itself to be very valuable later.

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The Bolender Law Firm can assist you in all intellectual property matters. Call us at 310-320-0725 now or submit an easy consultation request online. We are here to help!

intellectual property topics

Intellectual Property Topics: Understanding the Role of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

Most businesses today spring from someone’s dream, their inspiration, and the motivation and drive to create products or services that may have not been there before. The reality of founding a new company, however, usually means many hours at the office, enormous sweat equity, and what may seem like countless steps (many of them uphill!) to that launch—and continued success afterward. Once you are up and running, it is vital to either handle or delegate financial matters, ordering, employee hiring and scheduling, and most importantly, continuing to bring in loyal customers.

Your livelihood (and that of everyone who works for you) is centered around the unique products and services that keep people coming in, and because of that they must be guarded. And while either you specifically have created intellectual property relevant to your business, or partners or employees or independent contractors may have done so, your copyrights, trademarks, and patents should not be left open to outside parties who may have every intention of taking them for their own later.

One of the most interesting facts about intellectual property that most are not aware of until they begin considering licenses is that once you create it, the rights are yours. The intellectual property does belong to you, and is protected by common law, but that doesn’t do much for you in a court of law if you must sue another party for stealing a patent or infringing on a trademark. In working with your intellectual property attorney to register your works, you will learn that all patents and trademarks are approved and licensed through the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

The USPTO oversees processes for trademark applications and patent applications. As you move forward to register a trademark or a service mark, it is vital to select one that is registrable and realistically, will be one that can be protected legally. You must be able to establish what your mark format as, along with identifying the products and services connected with it. Trademark fees vary, but once everything is submitted, the review process could take months. Once approved, it is yours for ten years, and can be renewed for ten more years after that. In registering a patent, you must include a summary outlining the details of the patent and how it works, any relevant drawings, and then again, the application and fees. The wait for approval could be up to several years, but once approved it is good for around 20 years from the filing date.

The Bolender Law Firm can assist you in all intellectual property matters. Call us at 310-320-0725 now or submit an easy consultation request online. We are here to help!