Intellectual Property & Internet Law
Intellectual Property covers the fields of trademarks, patents, copyrights and trade secrets, as well as transactions, licensing and litigation involving these fields.
A trademark is the crucial public identity of your business. Technically, it is a word, phrase, symbol, or design that indicates to the consumer the source of goods or services. If two trademarks are so similar in appearance or sound that there is a likelihood that consumers will be confused as to the source, then the owner who most recently adopted the mark is said to be infringing on the other’s mark. He will likely be required to cease using the mark, and may have to pay damages. It is crucial, therefore, before starting a business, forming a new business entity, or branding a product, that a search be conducted to see if the proposed trademark is already in use.
Trademark owners establish their rights in a mark by using it to sell goods or services. Registration with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is not required, but registration protects the owner’s right to use the mark nation-wide and grants some other significant benefits. Any business with plans to operate outside of its local area, either on the internet or by physically expanding to new locations, should consider registering its trademark. We can handle that for you, from the initial trademark search through the entire registration process. We can also help you with trademark registration anywhere in the world, if you need it.
Once you have established a trademark, it must be protected, by making sure it is used properly by you and by others. Failure to protect your marks can mean the loss of valuable trademark rights. We can advise you on proper use of your mark, marking and labeling of your goods and advertisements, and how to respond to infringers and others who misuse you mark.
A patent is a grant from the government of a monopoly in the making, using or selling of an invention, which is a new and useful device, substance, or process. Obtaining a patent is usually a time-consuming and expensive proposition, and it requires the inventor to disclose the invention to the public. For this reason, it may be more appropriate in some cases to keep an invention a trade secret rather than apply for a patent. The inventor must apply within one year of first offering the invention for sale or disclosing it publicly. Under new law that takes effect in 2013, when two persons independently make the same invention, the first inventor to file for a patent, rather than the first to invent, will be awarded the patent.
A lawyer must be licensed as a patent attorney to file patent applications. Racine Olson does not not currently have a patent attorney on its staff, but we have worked closely with patent attorneys in Idaho and Utah on behalf of our clients. We have successfully represented patent owners in infringement cases and in licensing matters.
A trade secret can be almost anything — a compilation of data, a client list, a computer program, a method, a formula — that derives its value to your business from the fact that it is not generally known. A trade secret is protected under common law and state statutes if the owner takes the proper steps to protect its confidentiality. We can help you put in place policies and procedures, confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements, and other methods to protect your secrets, and help you defend them when they are threatened.
A copyright is simply the inherent exclusive right of an author or creator to make copies of a creative work. Copyrights can apply to paintings, photographs, books, audio or video recordings, or almost any other kind of work that is capable of being captured in some medium. The copyright not only gives the owner the exclusive right to duplicate and distribute copies of the work, it also gives the owner the exclusive right to make derivative works — for instance, a movie based on a novel, or a video game based on a movie.
It is not only authors and creators who must be concerned about copyright issues. Copyrights can be sold, traded and licensed just like other forms of intellectual property. Copyrights that were given away or sold decades ago can sometimes be recovered by the author or his heirs. Website owners can find themselves threatened with lawsuits demanding thousands of dollars over the use of a picture or a snippet of text or video. Even the webmaster who tries to do everything right can run into problems, because it can often be very difficult to determine who owns the right to permit him to use a particular work. We have the experience to help you deal with all of these issues, and can advise you on how to avoid them in the future.
Please call with any questions you may have in this area.