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Sacramento Intellectual Property Law Blog

What are the requirements for drawings in a design patent?

When you submit a design patent application for your California invention, you need to include drawings. However, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has very specific rules and guidelines you must follow when creating your drawing. If you fail to follow these directions, your application may be denied.

According to the USPTO, the drawing is the most important part of your patent application. You can submit a drawing or a photograph, which both usually must be in black and white. You should never submit drawings and photographs in the same application, though. Whatever you submit as your drawing must be complete. Anything not included or missing could alter the patent protection. This means you need to submit various views of the design, such as views from the top, bottom, front, rear and sides.

How long does copyright protection last?

If you are seeking copyright protection in California, one of your concerns may be how long that protection will last. This is a good question since other intellectual property protections generally have a specific number of years they are valid, which often are not going to last your lifetime. However, copyright protection terms work a bit differently, according to the U.S. Copyright Office.

The rules for copyrights were changed in 1978, so there are two distinct groups of copyrights with two distinct rules about protection length. Anything created and copyrighted before January 1, 1978 follows a complex set of rules based on exactly when the copyright was secured. This is due to various changes within the laws prior to 1978. First, there was the 1909 Act, which provided a 28-year term of protection with the option to renew for another 28 years of protection. When changes were made in 1978, those works still under protection under the 1909 Act were given an extension of protection for another 67 years. The total length of protection was then 95 years. These guidelines are no longer a concern for works published before January 1, 1923 because they are no longer are protected. However, they are important for those works published after that date and before January 1, 1978.

The best protective measures for IP online

The internet is a great place to expand your business and connect better with customers. Some companies operate solely online while others may use an online presence to boost their brick and mortar business. Regardless of how a business operates in regards to the internet, if it has anything online, then it is essential for the business owner to understand how to protect the company's intellectual property.

The nature of the internet makes it very simple for someone to take IP and use it as his or her own. The best way to ensure a business protects its interests is to take proactive steps when first putting any intellectual property online. Forbes notes that all legal protections, such as patents, should be secured before releasing to the public online. To protect written works, copyrights should be registered and the copyright symbol should be used, along with notices about copyrights. The same should be done for trademarks.

Understanding trademark protections

If you or your company in California is interested in protecting your unique terms, products or inventions, you will want to understand the different types of registrations potentially available to you. As explained by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, copyrights are for protecting creative works such as literary writings, musical creations or even advertisements and other marketing deliverables. Patents protect inventions or processes. Trademarks protect a company name or logo, including a particular style of displaying such things.

When it comes to seeking a trademark, there is a very specific process that must be followed. This includes the need to file documents or take other actions at designed timeframes. Failure to follow the process may put your registration in jeopardy.

What is the Defend Trade Secrets Act?

There are many protections available for your intellectual property in California. It is important to understand them and know the details of such protection, including what remedies you have if someone were to violate your rights. The American Bar Association notes a 2016 bill, called the Defend Trade Secrets Act, offers you better protection if you have a trade secret. The DTSA provides a new definition for trade secret, along with giving you a better venue in which to pursue trade secret violations.

Prior to the enacting of the DTSA, you were at the mercy of state courts where laws differed. If you had to go outside the state to another state court, it could get confusing. The idea of the DTSA is to provide a universial set of laws and procedures, along with giving federal courts jurisdiction.

The importance of a thorough patent search

California businesses and inventors need to protect their ideas from being stolen and used by others. One way of doing this is by getting an invention patented. Although this can be a sometimes confusing and long process, a patent protects a new invention from being used by others for a certain amount of time.

For an invention to be eligible for protection, it actually needs to be a new idea. In order to determine if there has already been a patent issued for a similar idea, a patent search is conducted. As Lifehacker explains, this can also be called a "prior art search," which is the method of sifting through all of the previous patents to ensure that an idea has not been publicly disclosed. In order to receive a patent, an invention has to be considered "new and non-obvious." Conducting a thorough search will prevent an inventor from wasting time and money on a patent application for an invention that cannot be patented because it already exists. Some patents date back hundreds or years, which can make the search process more difficult. The terminology in an application may be highly technical or extremely out of date.

How to find if an image is copyrighted?

The internet is a wonderful place to find images for California business owners. There is an image to suit pretty much any need. All you need to do is a quick search to get an array of them at your fingertips. However, you need to be cautious about using images you find online. The majority of them are likely protected by copyright. It is your responsibility to ensure any that you use are not copyrighted.

According to Drumbeat Marketing, there are a few ways you can ensure the images you find online are not copyright protected. The first thing you need to do is check for a copyright registration. Do be aware not every copyright is registered, but this can be a good place to start. You can also ask the owner, if you can find out who that is. You also should understand the simple signs of protection. This includes a copyright symbol, a watermark or any statement about copyright.

How is intellectual property infringement prosecuted?

If you own intellectual property in California, then you are likely concerned with protecting it. Should someone infringe upon your rights, the case will typically end up in federal court where you have to be represented by someone who is able to work at that level, such as Millstone, Peterson & Watts, LLP. It is not an easy process, so it helps to understand exactly what to expect.

According to the Copyright Alliance, intellectual property infringement is often civil but may also be criminal. Many government agencies are usually involved in IP cases because they are in charge of the laws governing intellectual property. Knowing if something constitutes infringement is based upon the rules, laws and circumstances laid out by the governing agency. For example, patents are governed by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The U.S. Department of Justice may get involved, turning a case into a criminal matter. Foreign matters are often handled by the U.S. State Department or the International Trade Commission.

How long does patent protection last?

Once you and/or your company create a new product and are preparing to take it to market in Sacramento, you might want to take moment to first ponder these questions:

  •          Does your product need to be patented? 
  •          What type of patent do you want?
  •          How long will that patent provide protection?

If you are already working in a crowded market, your chances of being granted any meaningful protection for your product may be slim. That may cause you to reconsider expending the resources, time and effort into getting it patented. However, if your product features any degree of innovation, the only way to ensure that is protected is through a patent.

Internet privacy laws in California

The internet has been tricky for lawmakers because of its inherent nature. It is difficult to police something so large and versatile. The technological aspects only make this more difficult. However, the federal government and some local governments have worked to put laws in place to protect U.S. internet users, including those in California.

Recently, though, some moves by the federal government have led to questions about internet privacy. According to The Washington Post, Congress recently stopped legislation left over from the Obama administration that would have protected user privacy. These regulations prevented internet service providers from selling and storing user browser data. It was rolled back due to concerns from ISPs that the law was too broad and restricted marketing abilities and data. After the regulations were repealed, many states and localities began drafting their own regulations to help protect internet users who felt their privacy was being violated.

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