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Kern County California Intellectual Property Law Blog

From filing patents to fighting against violations, we can help

We recently discussed the different types of patents that you might apply for when you have intellectual property that you want to protect. Filing for patents can help you ensure that people don't steal the designs that your business is founded on.

We understand that having to deal with filing patents and similar aspects of protecting your company might seem difficult. Fortunately, we are here to help you to learn about the process and what you need to do. Knowing what to expect can help you to prepare everything and be ready if there are any bumps in the road along the way.

Know about different types of patents you might use

Patents are a useful tool for many business owners and inventors. When you are granted a patent, it means that other people are forbidden from being able to steal your design. This is important because most business owners and inventors earn a living from these items.

If you are applying for a patent, you must ensure that you have everything together. This can be a challenge in some cases, but making sure that you are ready can help to make the process a bit less stressful.

Think about legal protection for your company's trade secrets

The trade secrets of your business are one of the things that set your business apart from others. You don't want another company jumping around you to discover your plans. You have to take steps to keep your trade secrets protected.

In the cartoon Spongebob Squarepants, Plankton does everything that he can think of to get Mr. Crab's Crabby Patty formula. He isn't successful, even when he tries to brainwash Spongebob into telling him the secret formula. In the real world, many employees aren't as loyal as Spongebob. A competitor could offer them a little cash and they would spill the beans.

Know your rights regarding trademarks and copyrights

As we recently discussed, trademarks and copyrights have important roles in the identification of your business. When you've worked hard to get your business to the point where it is easily recognized, the last thing that you need is for a competitor to use your branding points to try to improve their own bottom line.

We know that no matter what stage your business is currently in, you don't want anyone else to steal your hard work. Even if you are just starting your business and getting your logos and other identifying information designed, you have already likely invested a lot of your time and money into the business.

Trademarks and service marks are important for your business

When you have a business that sells goods or provides services, you might think of a catchy phrase that embodies the message you are trying to send to your customers. This catchy phrase, product name or similar item might be something that you don't want anyone to steal.

You can often protect your special wording or symbol as a trademark. In the case of a product, you would be able to use the "TM" symbol that is known for this. If you have a service, the symbol would be an "SM" symbol because you have a service mark.

Artists should consider legal help with licensing

There are a lot of artists who have incredible talent -- but they have no idea how to turn that talent into an income.

Part of the problem is that artistic talent and business knowledge, while not mutually exclusive, don't necessarily develop equally at the same time. Many artists think that their only option to make money from their work is to sell it off, one piece at a time. They don't realize that it's possible to use licensing agreements as a way to both promote their art and allow pieces to be duplicated and sold -- while still either reserving the original for sale later or selling the original to a single buyer.

Protecting valuable trade secrets

The theft of trade secrets has become a major cyber concern for organizations across the globe. As much as $300 billion annually is lost by companies and agencies each year because of trade secret theft -- that's well over the amount of value the United States exported to the entire European Union in 2013, so it's not a small number. While the theft of intellectual property and is often enabled by technology devices, such as flash and external drives that now hold terabytes worth of data, the culprit can often be an existing or former employee.

To protect trade secrets, organizations have to tighten down cyber security while also creating strong security policies and practices. Companies should begin with defining exactly what information it deems to be trade secrets. For a food service company, the recipes and ingredient lists might be highly valuable; for a technology company, the schematics of various devices might need to be guarded. Trade secrets are any information that has commercial value, is not easy to attain through proper, legal channels, and is subject to efforts to maintain the confidentiality of the data.

3 actions for protecting trade secrets

You put a lot of work into your brand, probably over a long period of time, but all it takes is one leak in your company to diminish brand value by spilling trade secrets across the market. By taking a proactive approach, you can help prevent trade secrets from being revealed. Here's a look at three ways you can protect your trade secrets.

First, it's essential to make sure your business procedures support any nondisclosure agreements you have. While it's a good idea to get agreements from employees that they won't disclose information to third parties, especially after they leave the company, your daily processes have to back that up. That means keeping information to need-to-know basis, creating strong security protocols for data and having a plan in place to ensure that employees who leave the company don't leave with digital or hard copy data in any format.

The war on weak software patents: Could you be impacted?

Software patents have been a point of contention for almost two decades, and current changes in the patent environment have created new challenges for businesses with existing patents. The issues stem partly from the fact that some believe patents shouldn't be issued for certain types of software, and new support for that view could be invalidating thousands of existing patents.

One reason software is contentious when it comes to patents is because many programs simply automate and existing business procedure. For some, automating what is already in existence isn't enough to support a patent. Courts currently tend to rely on a de facto ruling that doesn't support obtaining or maintaining a patent for a product that's only purpose is to automate existing functions.

Change in guard for patent and trademark advisory committees

In early January, the United States Patent and Trademark Office announced several new members for two advisory committees related to the office. The new members are to serve three-year terms in their respective offices.

The committees in question are the Trademark Public Advisory Committee and the Patient Public Advisory Committee. Each committee has nine total members, with members rotating off of the committees after their term is ended. The purpose of the committees is to advise the Secretary of Commerce and related agencies regarding managing of both the patent and the trademark office. As such, businesses working with patents and trademarks might want to make themselves somewhat familiar with the advisers.

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