Intellectual Property

Intellectual Property Lawyers in Birmingham

Intellectual Property is the term used to reference creations such designs, inventions, names, images, artistic and literary works, computer code and other intellectual creations.  

There are Four Types of Intellectual Property 

  • Trademarks: Protects your business name or logo.
  • Copyrights: Protects expressions or works of art (but also software).
  • Patents: Protects novel inventions for useful items.
  • Trade Secrets: Protects business processes or recipes or inventions that can’t be easily reverse-engineered.

Call Lippitt O’Keefe, PLLC at (248) 609-3526 or reach out online to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.

Trademarks

  • A trademark is anything that represents the source of the goods or services. Generally, we think of business or product names, logos, or slogans.
  • A trademark registration with the United States Patent and Trademark Office will protect against others using a confusingly similar mark.
  • If possible, file separate applications for the logo and business name. If you file together, then you’re stuck with that logo and word mark configuration.
  • It’s best to file logo/design marks in greyscale so that you can change the color scheme down the road if you would like.
  • When considering a new business or product name, know that generic or descriptive marks will be rejected by the USPTO. It’s better that a mark be arbitrary.
  • A trademark registration, once granted, requires maintenance fees in the years after registration. However, it will not expire as long as the maintenance fees are timely paid.

Copyright

  • Copyright protects original works of authorship as soon as an author fixes the work in a tangible form of expression.
  • Paintings, photographs, illustrations, musical compositions, sound recordings, computer programs, books, poems, blog posts, movies, architectural works, plays.
  • A copyright registration protects against others making unauthorized copies of your work. A copy is defined as anything “substantially similar” to the original work.
  • Copyright registration lasts from the date the work is “fixed in a medium” for the life of the author plus 70 years, or, if the “author” is a corporation, then 95 years from the date it is published.
    • In reality, this will likely be extended because Disney lobbies Congress every time Steamboat Willie is scheduled to enter the public domain.
  • Fun Fact: Giving credit to the author does not excuse you from copyright infringement.
  • Willful copyright infringement has a statutory penalty of $150,000 per work infringed.
  • So, when creating your websites, don’t copy/paste stock images you find on Google. You will get in trouble.

Patents

  • A patent is an exclusive right granted for an invention. Once granted, only the holder of the patent can make or reproduce a certain invention for the duration of the patent (in the US, that’s 20 years after the filing date).
  • In order to be granted, the invention must be novel and non-obvious over technology already existing.
  • Know the difference between provisional and nonprovisional patent applications.
    • Only “nonprovisional” patent applications are examined but they require a full disclosure, claims and drawing, among other items.
    • A provisional application holds your filing date for a year; you must disclose the invention as fully as possible, but you must file a nonprovisional application by the anniversary or it will expire.
    • Generally, provisional applications are cheaper, so start-ups will use these to test the market and see if it’s worth filing a nonprovisional application. A provisional patent application alone cannot result in a patent.
  • On Sale / Publication Bar: If you have made your invention public in any way, or offered it for sale, you have a year from that date to file either a provisional or nonprovisional application, or you lose the right to do so.

 Trade Secrets

  • Trade secret law protects confidential information. This must be:
    • commercially valuable because it is secret,
    • be known only to a limited group of persons, and
    • be subject to reasonable steps taken by the rightful holder of the information to keep it secret, including the use of confidentiality agreements for business partners and employees.
  • Usually, we recommend trade secrets to protect things like business processes and customer lists. It’s also useful for recipes (think the Coca-Cola recipe).
  • A trade secret can last as long as it is kept a secret. If an invention is difficult to reverse-engineer, it might be best consider pursuing trade secret protection rather than patent.
  • Generally, we advise clients to protect their trade secrets with robust nondisclosure agreements (sometimes with liquidated damages built in). These can be stand-alone agreements or they could be baked into employment agreements.

Call Lippitt O’Keefe, PLLC at (248) 609-3526 or reach out online to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.