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Orange County Legal Blog

Examples of the 3 types of patents

Having a patent on an invention or idea is important when a company or individual inventor wants to protect his or her right to make money off of the invention or idea. The patent will prevent competitors from stealing the idea and making money on it themselves. It will also protect the patent-holder's right to receive royalty payments for the use of the invention.

It's important to note, however, that not all patents are the same. In fact, there are three types of patents: utility patents, design patents and plant patents. Let's take a look at an example of each of these:

  • Utility patents: Imagine you create a machine, chemical or special process that is used for a specific purpose. If you can get a utility patent on this invention or concept, you can prevent others from using and making money off of it.
  • Design patent: These kinds of patents relate to the unique shape or appearance of an item. Maybe you designed a new kind of coffee mug that is entirely unique and no coffee mug has ever looked like it before. You might be able to get a design patent.
  • Plant patents: These relate to plants, fruits and other agricultural products. Farms and agricultural researchers are often cultivating new species of fruits, vegetables and other plans. Maybe, for example, a farmer cultivates a bigger and tastier strawberry. Sometimes, these new plants have great money-making potential, and patents can protect competitors from using the same plant in their business pursuits.

How Should I Respond To A Cease And Desist Letter?

You do not have to be involved in a high-profile intellectual property infringement suit to feel the pressure and stress this causes your business operations. Once you receive a cease and desist letter, you experience the jab of a business competitor. You may come to the conclusion that the other party actually stole your idea and is trying to assert that your company stole it from them. Most likely, you feel upset both personally and professionally.

An Age-Old Problem

What property rights do I have while I'm applying for a patent?

In order to receive a patent, you need to submit a patent application. However, waiting for your patent to be approved could take a considerable amount of time -- time that could eat into your business profits -- especially if another company is infringing on your patent. For this reason, most business owners are curious to know what their intellectual property rights will be as they wait for their patent to be approved.

Before you file for a patent, you'll receive some legal protection under trade secret laws. These laws protect the technical information that provides your business with value. Under trade secret laws, other parties may not use, create or sell your inventions and/or trade secrets. However, trade secret laws do not provide as much legal protection as patents.

Apple Hill growers fight over the area's famous name

Apple Hill is a lovely place to grow fresh veggies. The soil is fertile, the apples are juicy, the pumpkins are extra-orange and the Christmas trees are rich evergreen. However, a trademark dispute has erupted in this beautiful Northern California town. The disagreement relates to how the name "Apple Hill" can be used by those who want to sell their farm produce grown in the area.

The dispute started with Apple Hill Growers Association, which has been using the moniker "Apple Hill" on its goods since 1964. The Apple Hill Growers Association says that the owners of Boa Vista Orchards may not use the descriptor "Apple Hill," when they sell their fruit and veggies.

Not your parent’s cease-and-desist letter

Cease-and-desist letters have been around forever. For those of you not in the know, a cease-and-desist letter is a document sent to an individual or a business telling them to stop (cease) and do not restart (desist) said activity. Although it doesn’t necessarily mean a lawsuit is in the works, the letter is meant to be a warning that if said activity continues, legal action could be forthcoming.

Recently, a cease-and-desist letter has been in the news. When a Stranger Things themed pop-up bar, well, popped up in Chicago, Netflix sent them a uniquely creative cease-and-desist letter. In case you’ve been hiding out in the Amazon jungles for the last several years, Stranger Things is the wildly successful 1980s nostalgia-filled science fiction horror series from Netflix.

Comic-Con prevails in trademark suit

Comic-Con International -- which holds comic and gaming conventions throughout the world -- has prevailed in a recent trademark dispute with a rival convention operating in Utah. In its trademark infringement lawsuit, Comic-Con International claimed that it held exclusive rights to the name, "comic con."

The trademark infringement suit was filed in San Diego federal court. The court ruled that Comic-Con International is the owner of the mark "Comic Con" and that the use of the name "Salt Lake Comic Con" by the rival convention was an infringement on the mark.

Is my trademark name original enough?

Inventing a new trademark isn't easy. You'll want to consider a lot of different factors before you settle on one -- not the least of these factors being the originality and uniqueness of the mark. You'll also want to consider how well the mark describes your business or product and what your business or product could potentially grow toward one day.

As for originality, trademarks may be categorized into the following five levels of originality -- from most original to least original:

Plaintiff may be allowed to sue Jay-Z using Egyptian legal theory

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has just heard an appeal by an Egyptian man who wants to protect his uncle’s legacy. There’s no doubt that Jay-Z (Shawn Carter) and music producer Timbaland (Timothy Mosley) sampled Baligh Hamdi’s “Khosara Khosara” in the hit “Big Pimpin’.”

Although little known in the U.S., Baligh Hamdi, now deceased, was a famed composer in Egypt. Jay-Z and Timbaland say they found “Khosara Khosara” (“What a Loss, What a Loss”) on a CD and paid $100,000 to sample four measures of Arabic flute from the song to use as a hook for “Big Pimpin’.”

How do I perform a patent search?

The first step in any patent process is the creation of an idea or invention that you need to patent. The second step is performing a search to see if a patent already exists for your idea or invention. Obviously, if someone has already patented the idea, you can't patent it or profit off it -- and it will be time to go back to the drawing board.

As you can imagine, you should perform your patent search as early as possible. You can go to a patent lawyer to help you with your search -- and it's recommended in most cases because a patent lawyer will be as thorough as is humanly possible. However, you can perform a rudimentary patent search yourself for free.

Create a policy to protect your trade secrets

Many businesses thrive because of the trade secrets they own. These trade secrets, if stolen by an unscrupulous employee, could be used to compete unfairly with the business -- and affect its bottom line. A such, business owners should create a policy to protect their trade secrets.

When creating a trade secret protection policy, you'll want to cover the following areas:

  • Inform everyone who sees your trade secrets that they are secret. Let your customers, partners, employees and suppliers know that the information they're seeing is confidential. Request these parties to agree that they will not share your secrets or use them against you without your permission in writing. Have these parties -- including your customers and employees -- sign a confidentiality or "nondisclosure" agreement.
  • Physically secure your trade secrets. Use "No Trespassing" signs, put up fences, lock the exits and entrances. Hire a security guard if required to protect your secrets.
  • Regularly change your computer passwords. Safeguard your digital information by regularly changing your passwords and require the use of passwords that are difficult to guess.
  • Before a terminated employee leaves, remove his or her digital and physical access to trade secrets. Request the return of sensitive information and remind them of their nondisclosure agreements as well.
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