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Intellectual Property

Intellectual property is any innovation, commercial or artistic, or any unique name, symbol, logo or design used commercially.  Often known as IP, intellectual property allows people to own their creativity and innovation in the same way that they can own physical property.

Trademarks

A registration has a 10-year term and can be renewed for additional 10-year terms if you prove the mark is still in use for all the goods and/or services stated.  Additionally, between the fifth and sixth anniversary of a mark’s registration, you must file evidence with the PTO showing that you are still using your mark.  If you do not, your registration will be canceled.

Trademarks that have been “federally registered” with the USPTO may use the R-in-a-circle (®) symbol. Trademarks and service marks that have been filed and are awaiting registration from the USPTO may use the TM (TM) and SM (SM) symbols respectively.

Copyright

There are three (3) key reasons why you should get a copyright registration:  to establish a public record; to be able to file an infringement lawsuit in federal court; and to simplify enforcing your copyright and obtaining higher damages.

Patents 

Simply put, a patent is a right to exclude others from doing what you invented. There are, however, a number different types of patents.

There are U.S. patents, and there are foreign patents.  U.S. patents are rights granted by the U.S. government and exclude only actions within the United States.  Likewise, patents issued by a foreign government may be enforced only in that foreign country.

Also, in the United States, there are utility patents, and there are design patents.  When most people think of a patent, typical it is a utility patent that first comes to mind.  Utility patents protect the idea or function of an invention.  In contrast, design patents protect the overall appearance of an invention. Properly written, a utility patent application attempts to describe and claim for the inventor his or her invention as broadly as possible.  Similarly, properly written, a design patent attempts to claim the invented design as broadly as possible. What is the difference between a utility patent and a design patent?

A utility patent covers the functional aspects of an invention. A utility patent expires 20 years from the filing date. In 2006, it took approximately 30 months from filing until an examiner came to a decision. The length of time varies depending on the field and complexity of the patent. Examples of things that can be covered by a utility patent are a newly created fabric or a new clasp for a purse.

A design patent covers the ornamental aspects of an invention. They generally issue 8-20 months after filing and are protected for 14 years from the filing date. Design patents often cover long-term fashion items such as shoes, jewelry, and accessories.

A design patent is primarily a series of drawings that disclose and claim a new, ornamental design of a portion of a product.  Here is an example of a series of drawings for a design patent that I prosecuted for one or my sports and entertainment industry clients. 

You will notice the these drawings have some solid lines and some broken lines.  This is a way you can claim only a part of your design and thereby be very specific as to which combination of design features you are protecting as your own innovation.  In this case, it does not matter whether a competitor uses a different guitar neck, etc.  If the guitar body is substantially the same such that an ordinary purchaser could purchase a guitar having the competitor's guitar body design thinking that it was my client's design, the competitor's guitar body likely infringes this design patent.

Trade Secrets

In broad terms, a trade secret is information which gives a business an advantage over its competitors.  Trade secrets include such things as customer identities and preferences, vendors, marketing strategies, manufacturing processes, formulas and other competitively valuable information.  An example trade secret would be a hair salon’s secret process in applying hair dye to make the color stay longer.

Trade secrets are not registered and can last as long as the invention is kept a secret.

About Cislo & Thomas LLP

We handle all aspects of patent, copyright and trademark searching, clearance, filing, licensing, maintenance, recordation, and litigation. In addition we are experts in legal matters concerning trade secrets, domain name, search engine terms, false advertising, U.S. Customs intellectual property enforcement and unfair competition. Many of our clients are in direct response marketing, internet services businesses, food services, manufacturing, financial services, life sciences, education, and make or sell consumer products, industrial tools and supplies, aviation and aerospace components, beverages, food products, as well as many other types of goods and services. Our goal is to provide the highest quality intellectual property services in Southern California through our network of offices in Westlake Village, Santa Monica/West L.A and Santa Barbara to better serve our clients and be as convenient for them as possible. We also have a network of foreign associates we have been successfully working with for over twenty years to obtain any foreign patent, copyright and trademark protection and enforcement throughout the world.

Our staff has extensive training in many technical and engineering fields with Ph.D.'s on staff to best understand the technology we are charged to protect. In addition, our attorneys are admitted to the United States Patent Bar as well as the California bar and many other state bars as well. This allows us to not only understand and procure any intellectual property protection, but also to defend these rights in court as we pride ourselves on our extensive litigation experience, and particular expertise in the Central District of California Federal Court.

Cislo & Thomas LLP serves the following California cities: Los Angeles, Santa Monica/West L.A, Culver City, Westwood Village, Brentwood, Bel Air, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, Malibu, Pacific Palisades, Burbank, Pasadena, Studio City, Encino, Sherman Oaks, Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, LA, Westlake Village, Thousand Oaks, Calabasas, Agoura Hills, Camarillo, Santa Barbara, Simi Valley, Ventura, L.A., Long Beach, San Diego, Newport Beach, Palos Verdes, La Jolla, Encinitas, Irvine, Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach, Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach, Marina Del Rey, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, California (CA), among others. Addresses are: 12100 Wilshire Blvd. Suite 1700, Los Angeles, CA 90025; 2829 Townsgate Road, Suite 330 Westlake Village, CA 91361; and Cislo and Thomas LLP's new offices at 1332 Anacapa Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101.