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Trade Secrets

How A Patent Lawyer Can Protect Your Invention

By Intellectual Property, Intellectual Property Lawyer

How A Patent Lawyer Can Protect Your InventionA good patent lawyer will be able to help you determine whether your invention can be protected by registration with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO). As part of the process, you’ll learn the type of patent you’ll want to get to for your intellectual property.

What Is A U.S. Patent?

If the USPTO ultimately determines your invention a “new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof,” then the federal government will grant you the exclusive right to make, use or sell your intellectual property for 14 to 20 years, depending upon the type of patent. If others want to legally use your invention during that time, they have to pay you for the privilege (license) of doing so.

Related Article: Beware of Invention Promotion Companies

What About A U.S. Provisional Patent?

Like a unicorn, that really doesn’t exist. However, there are some circumstances justifying the need to file a provisional patent application (PPA) for your invention with the USPTO first, especially as the U.S. has now adopted a “First to File” (and no longer a “First to Invent”) patent system, in order to establish priority.

Note that if one files a PPA, it must be “converted” to a regular, non-provisional application within 12 months of filing the PPA, else the PPA is automatically deemed abandoned, i.e. you’ll lose the benefits of filing the provisional app and be statutorily barred from filing the non-provisional application thereafter.
Although a provisional patent does not exist (just a PPA), there are 3 types of patents the USPTO can issue depending upon what you’ve invented. Your Registered Patent Attorney will be able to identify the kind of patent you should seek and prepare the application for the USPTO to examine.

This may be the most critical part of a patent: the patent application!

It’s the properly drafted application that can maximize your property and legal rights.

Patent types include:

• Utility Patents
• Design Patents
• Plant Patents

Most patents are utility patents. In rare circumstances, a proposed invention may qualify for more than one type of patent, and/or qualify for copyright protection and/or trademark protection. A Registered Patent Attorney can help.about intellectual property lawyer herbert joe

What Is A Registered Patent Attorney?

Not all lawyers can practice patent law before the USPTO. An attorney must pass a very difficult patent bar exam in order to become a Registered Patent Attorney (RPA). Although there are 1.3 million lawyers in the United States, only about 2% are Patent Attorneys registered with the USPTO.

Related Article: Intellectual Property Lawyer Herbert Joe

The average length of time for a patent to be approved is almost 30 months from filing, but the actual time can vary greatly depending on many factors, like the complexity of the proposed invention.

What If Your Invention Doesn’t Qualify For A Patent?

You may learn from your patent lawyer or the USPTO that your intellectual property can’t be protected by a patent.

If that happens, your attorney can advise you on other possible ways to protect your IP, including steps to shield it, for example, as a trade secret. In other words, you still may be able to profit from your invention without having a patent for it.
What About Patent InfringementIf you already have an enforceable patent but someone is using a part of your invention without your permission, you should seek legal help from a registered patent attorney (RPA) immediately. Your patent lawyer may be able to enforce your exclusive rights via a court order (an injunction) to stop the infringement, force the infringer to pay you royalties and/or award you damages.

On the other hand, if you’ve been accused of infringing someone else’s intellectual property, you should immediately seek legal advice, preferably from an RPA, as one may be subject to the additional damages (up to three times compensatory damages) from “willful infringement.”

What About Trademarks?

Trademarks can be the most important asset of a company, e.g., one study determined that trademarks make up about 1/3 of corporate value. So, coming up with and then protecting your distinguishing word, logo, shape, sign, expression, etc., that distinguishes your products or services from others, may be a necessary and invaluable business decision.

Can A Patent Lawyer Also Help You With Copyrights?

Copyrights can be invaluable intellectual property for the creator of an original artistic or literary work, e.g., a movie, a song, a book, computer programs, photos, etc. Copyrights include the exclusive right to make, publish and sell your copyrighted property. There are distinct advantages to timely federally registering your copyright.

A good Registered Patent Attorney should be able to assist you with all of your Intellectual Property needs.

Gmail Privacy: Are You Giving Away Your Business Plans to Google?

By Internet Lawyer

When you go to an Internet marketing event, you don’t run around the room telling all your potential competitors your new business ideas and trade secrets. And if you find spyware on a computer filled with your business documents, you don’t leave it there to harvest your confidential information.

Why not?

Because you want to implement your plans before someone else does.

Yet the odds are good that you’re telling Google your business plans and other confidential information on a daily basis. And if you believe Google’s informal “Don’t be evil” motto, then perhaps your trust is well-placed.

But are you willing to take the risk?

Here’s an example…

I recently sent an e-mail to one of my Gmail accounts from my law firm as a test. The e-mail described a nonexistent “Project X” as being being important, potentially the “next Google,” and the need to get a patent right away to protect intellectual property rights.

Checking the message in the gmail inbox, I was hit with a bunch of sidebar ads by attorneys including patent lawyers.

Think about that for a moment.

If Google is willing to sniff through your e-mail to target advertising, what is it willing to do when it comes to your business ideas that you’re communicating back and forth daily by e-mail?

Note that I”m not picking on Google. The same could be said of Yahoo! and others. Google just happens to be a very good example because major Internet marketers prefer to use it because of ease and functionality. However, this convenience comes at a price…the privacy of your business plans.

If you develop a better widget, understand that your e-mail communications are not private. And when it comes to gmail, know that the content is being actively scanned for keywords…at least for advertising. Perhaps more. Who knows? Maybe your widget plans will become Google Widget 1.0. If so, good luck trying to collect royalties.

On a lighter note, check out this related humor video regarding Google and privacy.

Independent Contractor Agreements: Should You Use Them In Your Internet Business?

By Business Contracts, Business Lawyer

independent contractor agreements

Let’s make one thing clear…

Never Use Independent Contractor Agreements to Hide Employees

Independent contractor agreements should not be used in your Internet business to disguise an employer-employee relationship. However, like an employment agreement, it’s an important legal tool you’ll use to handle your labor needs.

If you get caught treating an actual employee as an independent contractor, you could be held liable for payroll taxes and some nasty penalties. There’s also the potential to deal with unemployment and worker’s compensation claims with an unhappy state government involved because you haven’t been paying the related employer contributions to those systems.

Related Article: How To Use An Independent Contractor Agreement

In other words, it’s simply not worth the risk.

When to Use Independent Contractor Agreements

If there truly is an independent contractor relationship, such as a work-for-hire web design gig for a single site, you’ll want a signed written independent contractor agreement in place to protect your legal rights.

Although the terms of the contract will vary depending upon the type of work to be performed and the unique circumstances surrounding the relationship, there are some general provisions that most of these types of agreements have in them in order to be binding (legally enforceable) in a way that offers you protection.

Related Article: Non-Compete Agreement And Independent Contractors

These terms include:

  • Scope of work
  • Price (amount and time(s) of payment)
  • Expense allocation (including any reimbursements)
  • Deadline for completion
  • Milestones (often tied to payment)
  • Existence of an independent contractor relationship rather than employment
  • Ownership of intellectual property rights for work created and protection of trade secrets
  • Governing law and jurisdiction
  • Alternative dispute resolution provisions

How to Get Independent Contractor Agreements

Of course, an experienced Internet lawyer can draft customized independent contractor provisions that are designed to protect your interests while keeping you out of court in case of  a dispute. If you’d like to talk with Business Contracts Lawyer Mike Young about getting an independent contractor agreement, be sure to set up a telephone consultation.

Confidentiality Agreements: How To Use Them In Your Internet Business

By Internet Lawyer

confidentiality-agreementWhen you’re dealing with trade secrets and other sensitive Internet business information, you’re going to want your employees and independent contractors to sign binding confidentiality agreements. This type of contract, also known as a nondisclosure agreement (NDA), is used to identify what information you’re sharing constitutes confidential information, the other party to the agreement acknowledges that he will not be disclosing the information to anyone, and the agreement provides you with legal remedies in case the agreement is breached by unauthorized disclosure.

A confidentiality agreement can be its own contract or it can be part of another agreement, such as a non-compete agreement or a client non-solicitation agreement. Whether you’ll incorporate it into another contract or have it as a separate agreement, the nondisclosure agreement is essential to protecting your e-commerce company’s important data.

Your Internet lawyer can help you determine the best way to protect your Internet business’ trade secrets.