Category: Intellectual property

Can there Be More Than One Owner for a Patent?

For an entrepreneur, there is nothing more exciting than getting into the momentum of innovation, creating a business plan and a business model—not to mention an incredible business product that you know will make an impact within your industry. And even though your business may be new, capital may always be a pressing concern, and you may have a lot on your plate in every way, protecting intellectual property is just as important as protecting everything else in your business; in fact, without the proper protection now, you could find yourself extremely regretful later if someone has stolen a patent, or even a copyright or trademark.

Patents can be complex to apply for, and on average take around 21 months to come through from the date of applying. Dealing with the patent application process is a job for an intellectual property attorney, or more specifically a patent attorney. Unless you have extensive legal knowledge, writing a patent and completing the process most likely would prove to be very challenging, and considering how long it takes a patent to be approved, it is critical to have your application filled out correctly.

There may be added complications in applying for the patent also, if there is some question as to ownership. Did you hire an independent contractor who came in and worked on a dynamic, exciting new project, creating the intellectual property that was left to your business permanently? If so, you should have an airtight contract with them, detailing the work they did, the duration of their employment, and making it very clear that any work created for the company belongs to the company. If you do feel comfortable with having them as part owner of the patent, then that should be in a written contract, or agreed upon if the patent is created later and is not included in any of the details of their initial contract.

There can be more than one owner for a patent, however, and if that is the case, both should be listed on the application as joint owners. There could be some gray area, however, if for example you created the entire invention and lead the process from beginning to end, while the other person only did work as instructed. In that case, they were really acting in the stead of an employee rather than an inventor. Because innovation today can be so valuable tomorrow, it could be vital to the success of your company to have everything in writing.

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!

patent

Does Your Business Need to Apply for a Patent?

Creating a business model is a multi-faceted project, and one that can be ongoing throughout the lifetime of your company. Along with this comes a host of other responsibilities such as creating your brand, establishing partnerships and agreements, hiring, establishing benefits packages, designing marketing campaigns—and oh yes, somewhere in there too: establishing a solid client base! There are many elements to founding and maintaining a healthy business, and while there is much to protect, intellectual property must be at the top of the list.

You may be an inventor yourself, or either full-time employees or independent contractors may be creating innovative products for your company. And although that is another somewhat complex subject, if you do have independent contractors working for you, it is vital that you have airtight agreements to protect what is your property essentially—unless stated otherwise. Before you wonder about patents further though, understand how they are defined. According to the United States Patent and Trade Office, a patent is issued when they grant property rights for an invention to the inventor. It does not expire for 20 years after filing of the application and gives you the right to exclude everyone else from using the invention, making it, and selling it in the US. Everyone else is also excluded from importing it into the US.

“Once a patent is issued, the patentee must enforce the patent without aid of the USPTO,” states the USPTO. “The patent law specifies the general field of subject matter that can be patented and the conditions under which a patent may be obtained,” continues USPTO information.

“In the language of the statute, any person who ‘invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent,’ subject to the conditions and requirements of the law. The word ‘process’ is defined by law as a process, act, or method, and primarily includes industrial or technical processes. The term ‘machine’ used in the statute needs no explanation. The term ‘manufacture’ refers to articles that are made and includes all manufactured articles. The term ‘composition of matter’ relates to chemical compositions and may include mixtures of ingredients as well as new chemical compounds. These classes of subject matter taken together include practically everything that is made by man and the processes for making the products.”

If your business owns rights to an invention that needs this type of protection, then you do need to apply for a patent. Work with an experienced intellectual property attorney from an office like the Bolender Law Firm. There are some pre-application steps that are very important and getting help from a legal professional versed in patents is in your best interest as you determine what type of patent you need, whether there are other similar (or identical) ones in existence already, and more. Understanding patent laws and the application process can be complicated.

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

How Long Does Intellectual Property Last?

As a business owner, your knowledge will become vast over the years regarding many different subjects. Not only will you be required to understand every nuance about the products and services you are selling, how to fight the competition, and how to manage your finances, but you will also need to understand how to deal with labor law, employees, benefits, partnerships, commercial real estate and insurance, and so much more. But along with all these items, you will also need to protect intangible items, like intellectual property.

While it may seem complex—and indeed it is—registering for and maintaining your intellectual property is a must, along with ensuring that you have proper agreements signed with employees and independent contractors regarding non-disclosure and confidentiality. Whether you have copyrights, trademarks, service marks, or patents, knowing how long each license lasts can be vital, so that you know when to reapply. The power is left to you to make sure these protections are enforced in most cases, along with seeing that the licenses are kept up to date.

Most intellectual property lasts as follows:

  • Copyrights – these usually last for the lifetime of the ‘author,’ as well as 70 years past that. Copyrights refer to artistic expressions of work, but for your business purposes could also be software, architectural structures, and more.
  • Trademarks/Service marks – this type of intellectual property is good in ten-year increments that can be renewed indefinitely. Both trademarks and service marks (which serve as a subset of trademarks) apply to branding mechanisms, helping customers identify with the products and services you offer. Your trademark typically may be a logo or a symbol, and your service mark may be a word, slogan, or catch phrase created for marketing purposes.
  • Patents – from the time of application, these are good for around 20 years. Patents apply to inventions and are vital to keep others from stealing the right to use, make, sell, or import them.
  • Trade secrets – these are protected ‘without procedure or formality,’ and indefinitely so, but they must be something unknown to others, have commercial value, and you must be working to maintain the secrecy of such intellectual property.

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!

 

Does Your Business Need to Apply for a Patent?

Creating a business model is a multi-faceted project, and one that can be ongoing throughout the lifetime of your company. Along with this comes a host of other responsibilities such as creating your brand, establishing partnerships and agreements, hiring, establishing benefits packages, designing marketing campaigns—and oh yes, somewhere in there too: establishing a solid client base! There are many elements to founding and maintaining a healthy business, and while there is much to protect, intellectual property must be at the top of the list.

You may be an inventor yourself, or either full-time employees or independent contractors may be creating innovative products for your company. And although that is another somewhat complex subject, if you do have independent contractors working for you, it is vital that you have airtight agreements to protect what is your property essentially—unless stated otherwise. Before you wonder about patents further though, understand how they are defined. According to the United States Patent and Trade Office, a patent is issued when they grant property rights for an invention to the inventor. It does not expire for 20 years after filing of the application and gives you the right to exclude everyone else from using the invention, making it, and selling it in the US. Everyone else is also excluded from importing it into the US.

“Once a patent is issued, the patentee must enforce the patent without aid of the USPTO,” states the USPTO.

“The patent law specifies the general field of subject matter that can be patented and the conditions under which a patent may be obtained,” continues USPTO information.

 “In the language of the statute, any person who ‘invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent,’ subject to the conditions and requirements of the law. The word ‘process’ is defined by law as a process, act, or method, and primarily includes industrial or technical processes. The term ‘machine’ used in the statute needs no explanation. The term ‘manufacture’ refers to articles that are made and includes all manufactured articles. The term ‘composition of matter’ relates to chemical compositions and may include mixtures of ingredients as well as new chemical compounds. These classes of subject matter taken together include practically everything that is made by man and the processes for making the products.”

 If your business owns rights to an invention that needs this type of protection, then you do need to apply for a patent. Work with an experienced intellectual property attorney from an office like the Bolender Law Firm. There are some pre-application steps that are very important and getting help from a legal professional versed in patents is in your best interest as you determine what type of patent you need, whether there are other similar (or identical) ones in existence already, and more. Understanding patent laws and the application process can be complicated.

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 secret protection

Intellectual Property: Why Trade Secret Protection is Different

Intellectual property is a necessity for most businesses today, whether you realize you are engaging in creating it and owning it or not. As soon as you make it or have it designed, it is yours. Most new companies start out building their brand. This can be an extensive marketing task, from complex advertising campaigns to creating logos (trademarks) to slogans indicating what you do (service marks), and so much more.

Copyrights come into play once artistic works have been created too, whether you are in the business of software, architecture, screenplays, literature, music, etc. Patents generally apply to inventions you have made (whether they are utility, design, or plant patents) and want to be given exclusive rights for manufacturing, selling, and importing. Trade secrets, however, are different because you are not actually granted a license for this type of intellectual property; rather it is defined as “a piece of information that has independent economic value by not being generally known and can reasonably be maintained a secret.”

Trade secrets are protected by the Uniform Trade Secrets Act, but as a business there are numerous measures you must take such as identifying what needs protection and labeling it, having proper storage, and keeping it secret. There should be suitable security measures taken to protect trade secrets, and employees should understand what the definition is of a trade secret, and if they have access to them at work, they should be apprised of the rules regarding confidentiality.

You may have hired independent contractors who were responsible for creating the contents of trade secrets, and at times this type of ownership can get tricky if it was not spelled out to begin with. Speak with your business attorney regarding the use of non-disclosure agreements and create company policy to be outlined in any available employee manuals. Most importantly, when an employee leaves your company or their job is terminated, they should be required to participate in an exit interview. A discussion regarding confidentiality of trade secrets should occur then too. Remember: if you are not able to protect your trade secret properly, the government is not responsible for it, and any responsibility on their part is eliminated.

Do you need legal assistance with a business dispute? If so, contact the Bolender Law Firm.  Our attorneys are experienced in representing clients in state and federal courts, at both the trial and appellate level. Call us at 310-320-0725 now or submit an easy consultation request online. We are here to help!

trade secrets

Trade Secrets & When Protection Becomes Void

The realm of intellectual property may seem vast, but the bottom line is that it only applies to the branding of your business and what you need in terms of logos, slogans, service information that you want the public to be aware of, and then protection of artistic works and inventions. Most businesses do begin building a brand right away, along with creating information that may need to be copyrighted. Technically, the definition of what is protected by copyright is an artistic expression of work. This can be relevant to a business in many cases though, from certain marketing materials to legal documents to computer programs, spreadsheets, works of architecture, and so much more. This type of intellectual property protection is crucial when you are expending large amounts of money and time on important projects, and when you must worry about infringement by competitors.

Protecting trademarks and service marks is just as vital, to avoid theft of branding mechanisms that play a vital role in helping customers (sometimes around the world) remain familiar with what you offer, whether goods or services. Patents protect what you may be creating within your business, giving you exclusive rights to manufacture and sell your invention for up to 20 years.

All intellectual property is related to trade secrets, which the United States Trademark and Patent Office considers to be the ‘fourth form of intellectual property,” as follows:

“Trade secrets consist of information and can include a formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique or process. To meet the most common definition of a trade secret, it must be used in business, and give an opportunity to obtain an economic advantage over competitors who do not know or use it.”

And although it may be assumed that your employees realize they should not be giving out any information about the trade secrets of your business, think again! People talk, competition is fierce, and without proper legal protection, your trade secrets could walk right out the door. Protection of your trade secrets can be diminished if you do not take care of them properly though. This means securing and identifying them properly, using caution in terms of any accessibility, and making sure that everyone who works with you knows that such information must stay within the business. Without such measures, you may lose all protection of trade secrets, in line with guidelines from the USPTO.

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!

domain names

Intellectual Property: The Differences Between Domain Names and URLS

While intellectual property may seem intimidating to some, the basics are simple when it comes to understanding the separation between items like trademarks and service marks, copyrights, and patents. But as you work to build your brand, other elements that cannot be ignored come into play also—and are just as important (if not more so) to protect.

These days nearly every business requires a website, including domain name and URL. The domain name is often the name of a company, but they may have many different URLs within that for different divisions and pages, and more. The URL (which stands for uniform resource locator) is the actual address (like https://bolender-firm.com) and there are probably many that you are familiar with and use routinely. In establishing intellectual property, you will need to choose a domain—along with hundreds of thousands of other businesses. Like your business name, this should be catchy. In many ways it will become your identity, and is part of adding to your professional look, as well as your brand.

Protecting your domain name once you have it may become a bigger priority for some than others, but in most cases, it is something you would be deeply concerned about losing; in terms of copyright protection, however, that is only available to intellectual property such as written works like poetry or screenplays, architectural works, software, and more.

Domain names are not protected or approved or licensed by the U.S. Copyright Office but they do recommend working with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), an organization that performs domain system management. In some cases, however, they can be protected by trademark, and while this is good for you once you have a name, as you are choosing one, be careful that it is not protected by a trademark—and this goes for businesses or websites operating in other countries too.

Intellectual property can become one of your biggest assets over the years, and it must be held in value on the same level as other tangible. If you are a new business, seek legal help in applying for copyrights to protect a variety of different works, trademarks and service marks to protect your brand, and patents to protect inventions—whether they were created by you, a full-time employee, or an independent contractor you may have hired on a project-to-project basis.

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 secret policy

Understanding Trade Secret Policy

Intellectual property is key for many businesses in the US today, and there are numerous different kinds. Your business may have been founded on different types of intellectual property; for instance, you may have created a logo (to designate what types of products you sell and create familiarity with the public) from the beginning, meaning it could be printed on signs, marketing products for your company, and items like business cards and letterhead.

Logos, symbols, and branding marks are typically protected by trademark, although items like slogans may be designated with a service mark (denoting what services you provide). Copyrights are approved for individuals and businesses who have registered artistic works—and this can span many things, from a screenplay to a cookbook to a work of architecture or software. Patents are granted (usually for a period of only about 20 years) for inventions, meaning that the inventor then has exclusivity regarding manufacturing and sales. A patent owner can also decide who has rights for activities such as distribution, importing, and exporting. All these items are intellectual property, and as a business owner, any of these IP types could be invaluable to your business.

Trade secrets encompass a whole other level of intellectual property, and generally means that employees and contractors should be well-apprised of confidentiality issues as well as who has ownership of such intellectual property if they leave their jobs. You should have a trade secret protection policy for staff to follow, meaning that you have legal recourse later should there be any misappropriation, or improper usage. An employee manual is recommended for a company of any size, although its size may vary depending on the scope of your business and how many people work there.

The United States Trademark and Patent Office (USTPO) defines a trade secret as the following:

  • Formula
  • Pattern
  • Compilation
  • Program
  • Device
  • Method
  • Technique
  • Process

Any of these items can become trade secrets in business when used to obtain an economic advantage over competitors who do not know or use it. Certain policies apply to trade secrets too internationally. The US is part of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and is also part of the party to the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual-Property Rights (TRIPS). This means they must provide trade secret protection:

“Article 39 paragraph 2 requires member nations to provide a means for protecting information that is secret, commercially valuable because it is secret, and subject to reasonable steps to keep it secret. The Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016 created federal civil cause of action, strengthening U.S. trade secret protection, with a choice for the parties between localized disputes under state laws or disputes under federal law, heard in federal courts,” states the USPTO. “While state laws differ, there is similarity among the laws because almost all states have adopted some form of the Uniform Trade Secrets Act.”

 

As a business owner, you must maintain secrecy over trade secrets in order to have to leverage later to sue someone regarding misappropriating. If secrecy was disclosed due to your actions, there can no longer be any protection over it in terms of being awarded damaged in court.

“Trade secrets do not expire so protection continues until discovery or loss,” states the USPTO.

Intellectual property topics and issues can be complex and often require the assistance of a skilled attorney.

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!

patent

What Does it Mean to Have a Patent?

Intellectual property can be extremely valuable to your business, especially if your specialty is innovation. Because understanding what type of intellectual property protection may be best for you, it is important to get educated on the range of applications and licenses available. But first, be aware that as soon as you create intellectual property it is yours. The significance of applying for a patent or trademark or service mark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office or a copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office is that you have confirmation of the product, therefore leading to stronger legal rights should you have to sue over infringement.

While copyrights refer to artistic expressions of work (such as literature, music, architecture, software, and more), and trademarks and service marks refer to branding, logos, and slogans, patents are relevant to inventions, and give you usually around 20 years of exclusivity to make and sell whatever it is you have created.

The application process for a patent can be complicated and it is recommended that you speak with an intellectual property attorney from a firm like the Bolender Law Firm first. With expert legal help, you will be able to start by searching the USPTO Full-Text and Image Database for similar patents that may already be registered—and although this doesn’t count you out in terms of being approved, you may need to consider what is already out there and what the ramifications are. Upon applying, there may be a waiting period of around two years—but it could last beyond that. What this means is that you should be very serious about what you are registering, have foresight about beginning the process, and then be ready to wait.

Once granted, having a patent means the following, according to the USPTO:

“The right conferred by the patent grant is, in the language of the statute and of the grant itself, “the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling” the invention in the United States or “importing” the invention into the United States. What is granted is not the right to make, use, offer for sale, sell or import, but the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, selling or importing the invention. Once a patent is issued, the patentee must enforce the patent without aid of the USPTO.”

Patents are divided into several categories—utility, design, and plants. Patents must be considered useful and are not viable in the form of just an idea or concept. 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 infringement

The Legal Implications of Intellectual Property Infringement

Protecting your business is one of the most important things you can do throughout life. This is a multi-faceted endeavor too, as there are so many areas that can become vulnerable, leading to insurance liabilities, security breaches, and more—to include loss or theft of intellectual property. This could be inventions that need to be patented or copyrighted works whether pieces of architecture, software innovation, literature, music, or more. Trademarks such as logos and symbols must be protected, as well as service marks designating what you provide to your specific industry.

And while protecting from infringement is always something to guard against, there may also be true confusion regarding who intellectual property belongs to within the workplace. To avoid any gray area regarding your ownership over the innovations created within your business, employee confidentiality and non-disclosure/non-competition agreements are recommended whenever possible. While they cannot completely ensure you won’t have any problems or that you won’t have trade secrets walking out the door without your knowledge, they are your best preliminary bet for fending off complications and the potential for serious financial loss and harm to your company.

In the case that your intellectual property is being used without your permission and simple communication with the other party asking them to cease such activities is not effective, you do have legal recourse and should consult with a skilled intellectual property attorney as soon as possible. You may have questions about what makes intellectual property yours, and technically, it is yours as soon as it comes into being—as soon as you or an employee or independent contractor make it. In some cases, this could be enough to fight against infringement, but depending on the value of the items at hand you may not ever want to take that risk.

The other party may have considerable or unforeseen resources to fight you, even if they have taken what was your original creation. That could make suing more challenging if you have not applied for registration or licensing. Again, this is a job for your attorney, who can advise you on what type of applications and licenses to pursue, whether from the U.S. Trademark and Patent Office, the U.S. Copyright Office, or other entities for items like domain names and more.

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!