How do I know if my idea/product/business is worth protecting?
Russell received his law degree from Georgetown in 2004. Russell helps individuals and businesses protect their innovations, creations and business information using strategies based in patent, trademark, copyright and trade secret law. His work includes both strategic planning and dispute resolution. He assists clients who want to buy and sell businesses, and license or transfer their intellectual property assets.
In short, consult a professional. There are different types of intellectual property protection available and they each cover different subject matter and provide different types of protection. In addition, every lawyer out there can tell you stories about clients that spent thousands on litigation as a result of trying to avoid hiring a lawyer to do something for them. Intellectual Property is a complicated area of the law and mistakes are costly. Hire a professional.
What kinds of things are eligible for patent protection?
Any new and useful manufactured article, machine, composition of matter, or process and improvements to them are eligible for patent protection. The devil is in the details. Certain technology areas have a harder time patenting than others right now – namely biotechnology and software enabled inventions. In short, whether something is patentable is usually more a function of whether it is new and nonobvious.
What are the risks of not applying for patent protection?
First, there are a number of activities in which an inventor can engage that will defeat their right to apply for a patent including disclosing or offering to sell the invention more than one year before filing the application. In addition, there is always the possibility that someone sees the product you are selling, realizes it is not protected and starts selling it themselves.
Can I protect my business name or logo?
Trademark law protects any sound, symbol or device that is used in interstate commerce to identify a
brand. Trademarks can consist of words, symbols, images or any combination thereof. There are also
trademark registrations for sounds, color and even taste; although, registrations for taste are pretty rare. The look and feel of a product or its packaging can sometimes be registered as well. To be registered, the trademark needs (i) to be used in conjunction with the sale of your goods and services, (ii) to be distinctive and (iii) not confusingly similar to another trademark already in use.
What are the risks of not registering my Trademark?
In some cases, another business that is selling a similar or related good or service may register your name or one similar to your own and threaten you with trademark litigation. Even if you adopted your trademark first, you could be left spending a lot of money in litigation to preserve your right to use your own name and worse yet, you may lose that right altogether. In addition, without a registration you may
find it difficult to convince third parties like web hosts to remove infringing content.
This discussion just scratches the surface of this topic. Business owners are strongly encouraged to seek
the advice of an intellectual property attorney early to find out what intellectual property protections may be important to their businesses. There are deadlines for applying for certain types of protections so delay can be costly.