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Inventions & Designs

Many small businesses first approach an intellectual property attorney with a specific need in mind, such as securing a trademark for their name. What is most interesting is that many times a small business may optimize their budget with other forms of intellectual property protection or securing such protections for aspects other than they originally thought. As an example, a small business may come in to trademark a new name "SuperDooper" when, in reality, it is discovered that a fanciful design they use has a long-standing and respected reputation that identifies them among their terget customers. Many other examples of such discoveries can be made to illustrate this point.

A small business may be able to secure a reasonable amount of intellectual property protection and a degree of competitive advantage by developing a mix of patent, trademark, and/or copyright registrations. Examples include:

  • copyright protection for manuals, drawings, software, website materials
  • copyright protection for artistic elements of company products (drawings, jewelry, patterns, etc)
  • trademark and/or tradedress protection for names, logos, packaging style
  • trademark protection for domain names
  • service mark protection for services provided
  • certification mark protection for licensing your standards to others
  • design patent protection for non-functional appearance of products
  • patent protection for new improvements to existing products
  • licensing of key copyrights, trademarks, or patents from others
  • licensing your key copyrights, trademarks, or patents to others

As you can imagine, a review of your business along with its products, services, and marketing may reveal a wide range of options for securing intellectual property protection -- all with a view towards creating additional business, protecting current markets, and/or generating competitive advantage. Feel free to contact us with your initial intelletual property needs and ask us to work with you for such an overall review to discover what other options you may have.

Protecting Your Ideas

Generally, PATENTS are for inventions. Roughly speaking, inventions are new and useful compositons, devices, or processes. Design patent protection is also offered for new designs of useful objects. An example would be a new style for silverware or reading glasses. Plant patent protection is also offered for new plants. The United States offers the ability to file a provisional application as well as a non-provisional application. Certain countries are members of the Patent Cooperation Treaty, which allows a single application to secure a filing date prior to filing patent applications in individual countries. This may be useful for those contemplating filing for patent protection in other countries, such as Canada and Mexico.

Generally, COPYRIGHTS are for works of art. This includes books, music, jewelry, artwork, textiles, and other creative works. Software can also be copyrighted, providing limited protection of the specific computer code. Formal copyright registration in the United States increases the remedies available against an infringer.

Generally, TRADEMARKS are for naming products or services. A trademark is used to identify the source of a good or service. The United States also recognizes certification marks and collective marks ("collective" meaning a group or organization). Trademarks may be made up of words or may be a graphical logo. Colors, jingles, smells, etc. may also qualify as trademarks. An application may also be made if you intend to use a mark. Trademarks are also useful in protecting domain names. Texas also offers state trademark registrations. Typically, trademark registration is used to protect an investment in signage, printing, product labelling, marketing materials, domain name, etc. Trademark registration also makes it difficult for a competitor or importer to copy the product using the trademarked name. Under the Madrid Protocol, application for protection may be extended to other countries who are members of the Madrid Protocol.

A common mistake is failing to secure intellectual property protection prior to discovering an infringer or being accused of infringing. The costs of asserting or defending an infringement are significant. By then, the ability to secure intellectual property protection may be gone or greatly reduced, depending on the circumstances. Most often, securing intellectual property rights early is relatively lower in cost and typically creates an environment favorable for preventing expensive infringement situations.