trademark sign and padlockYou’ve got a great idea on a new product or service and you know exactly what you want to name it.  Because you’re sure this will be your name, you might think that one of the first things you do is to register the trademark. But in reality, rushing to be first might not always be the best move.

Registering a trademark is not difficult, but there are some very particular rules and practices that you really should know before you jump right in and make the application.

  1. The rights to your trademarked name are created by using it. Registering the rights formalize those rights.
  2. Likewise, trademark laws are predicated upon the assumption you actually use of the name. Simply thinking up new and interesting names and registering the trademark doesn’t give you rights to that name if you don’t actually use it.  In fact, you can’t register the trademark if you don’t have intent to use it.
  3. The application fee is nonrefundable.  It’s not super cheap, so before you file the application, make sure you read all the rules, enter in all the proper information, and do your research before you put your money on the line.
  4. There are two types of trademark applications – one for intent-to-use and one for actual use. Although it might seem like a good idea to put in an intent-to-use registration immediately, if you don’t plan on actively using it within six months, your intent-to-use registration can run out.   Extensions are expensive and can add up quickly.  Most people wait to use the name first and then file an actual use registration.  It is simpler and it is cheaper.
  5. It’s recommended that you don’t use your business name as your product name. If you ever want to sell the product line (including the trademark), you would be giving up your business name as well.
  6. Make sure you fully understand what goods or services you wish your brand name to cover. The more goods and services you list, the more you will pay to file.  However, if you make your list too small, you cannot later go back and add products and services after you initially file.
  7. Research your name first. In fact, research alternate spellings and variations of the name to see if someone else has already registered your name or anything very similar.  If something similar to your name exists, you must make yours different enough so as to not cause confusion.
  8. If you find your name free, you can begin to use it even before you file. But simply using the name as your website name is not enough to constitute use.  However, using it as a brand or service being sold on your website is usually enough to constitute use.

For a FREE Trademark Consultation call 877-868-7239

Doctor  working with tablet computer. orange pills,  prescriptioYears ago, there were many news stories related to online pharmacies that sold prescription drugs to consumers either without a valid prescription or by using prescription-mill doctors that never actually saw a patient and may or may not provide legitimate medications.  The FDA has worked hard to shut down these illegal online pharmacies, yet it seems new ones pop up all the time.

For consumers, there is always risk purchasing from online pharmacies.  How can the consumer know the drug they’re being sent is the real thing and not just a coated sugar pill? How can the consumer know that the pharmacy is reputable – that they adhere to HIPPA laws, that they won’t steal credit card data or that they won’t sell something dangerous? 

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hersheyIn the food industry, intellectual property is extremely important because your brand and its appearance is what sells your product. You never want to “look” like your competition. Trademarks, symbols, mascots, even fonts and colors and packaging materials — all these and more fall under category of law called intellectual property.

Here are three interesting and quite funny intellectual property lawsuits.

Hershey vs. Pot Dispensaries

When Washington State and Colorado legalized the sale of marijuana, it created an entirely new industry. And as is often true of newcomers, the rookies seemed to not know the rules by which to play.

In June, Hershey began filing lawsuits alleging that pot dispensaries were selling marijuana-filled knockoffs of the chocolate company’s well-known brands. At issue were products like “Reefers Peanut Butter Cups,” which apparently resemble Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Apparently, Hershey did not see the humor in this, even though it has been said that imitation is the best form of flattery.

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Snowboard freeriderMost people think of Ski Town USA as Steamboat Springs, Colorado.  The Steamboat Ski and Resort Corporation trademarked the name in 1959.  Earlier this year, in order to entice more skiers to their city, the Visit Salt Lake organization started a campaign urging people to visit Ski City USA.  They advertised that once you visited Ski City you would never again visit Ski Town.

The Steamboat Corporation first sent a cease and desist letter and when they didn’t get the response they wanted, decided to file suit. In the lawsuit, they allege trademark infringement and violation of unfair competition laws in that Ski City USA was an attempt to confuse consumers and leverage the highly successful and long-held brand.  Also named in the suit were Snowbird, Alta, Solitude and Brighton, which are areas close to Salt Lake City. 

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Tubature, riscaldamento, compressori, bim, progettoIt’s sometimes very difficult to draft that perfect employee agreement – you know – the kind that fully protects your rights to intellectual property and inventions created by your employees while at the same time encouraging creativity.  Many employers mistakenly believe they should make the agreement overly broad – favoring their interests or make it overly restrictive -not fully protecting their interests in order to encourage new inventions; however, courts tend to frown on any type of extreme agreement.

If you make one overly broad, you run the risk of the agreement being unenforceable either in part or in whole.  If you make the agreement overly restrictive, you run the risk of employees taking the invention you paid them to make and not letting you reap the benefits from it. 

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China - Flag on Button of Black Keyboard.When it comes to intellectual property developed in the United States, everybody knows it’s important to protect your individual rights.  And most people generally understand that, in this global world, it’s important to protect your rights throughout the world.

Protecting your rights in another country means following the process and filing the proper paperwork in the other country.  In some instances, the process is not so different from the process followed in the United States.  However, in countries such as China, there are certainly unique challenges that face us.

Why is China different?

Intellectual property in a communist country is regarded much differently than intellectual property here in the US.  Historically, in a communist country, assets belong to all the people of the country and not to individuals.  “From each according to his ability – to each according to his need” is a popular communist slogan and represents the communist idea well. 

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App Vector IconEveryone loves to capture moments in time through photographs, and furthermore we all love to share them with our friends and family. Before the wave of social media, we would get our film developed and then make duplicate photos (which of course we paid for) and then send them to our families. No harm; no foul. There was no “liking” photos, “sharing” photos or even “pinning” photos (unless however, we were pinning them to a bulletin board or on our mirror). Well now, we find photos everywhere online, and oftentimes the photos are those taken by people other than ourselves. In lies the problem. We like these photos so much that we want all of our friends and family to see them too. So what do we do? We “borrow” them for a time for the world to see. Sounds harmless. Realistically, people put the photos on the Internet for people to see, right? Well, not so quick. Let’s look into this a little more deeply.

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toyotaThe most costly data breaches are usually those that are created by a malicious insider. These people normally have access to things external hackers generally don’t have access to, like intellectual property, which in turn allows them to get into areas only known to them and to have additional insight as to the areas most vulnerable to attacks.

Company insiders, not outside hackers, are involved in more than two-thirds of all cyber cases involving theft of intellectual property. Moreover, when there is intentional and malicious destruction of data, a corporate insider is frequently responsible. Whether driven by opportunism, greed, a desire for revenge, or a combination of all three, these insiders exploit their positions of trust to obtain access to their organization’s most valued digital assets. Moles, opportunists, contractors, disgruntled employees, and ex-IT personnel—all currently pose a greater risk to corporate intellectual property than state-sponsored hacking and APTs, both in frequency and in damage caused.

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wbIntellectual Property… You know that wonderful system that aims to foster an environment in which creativity and innovation can flourish. It’s supposed to be a ‘feel good’ approach to knowing that you’re covered and no one can take advantage of your priceless and genuinely unique inventions.  The laws behind IP are a bit more precise as to how it is able to do what it does. In a nutshell, IP is protected in law by, for example, patents, copyright and trademarks, which enable people to earn recognition or financial benefit from what they invent or create. The goal is to strike the right balance between the interests of innovators and the wider public interest.

Here are a couple of cases about intellectual property that may be recognizable to you.

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  1. Determine if your work that has been copied is protected by copyright law. 

Copyright Blue GreyCopyright law protects the expression of almost every creative expression imaginable, as long as it’s fixed and original. It doesn’t protect ideas, facts and any utilitarian language.

Imagine that you spoke to someone about writing a book about an investigator who needs to go to therapy while undercover, and then that person writes a book about a firefighter who needs to go to therapy. At first glance, you might think that that person has stolen your idea, thus infringing on your copyright. That’s not accurate, though. Since when you spoke to this person about your idea, it wasn’t a fixed expression, it was still only an idea. Ideas aren’t protected by copyright law. 

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