FAQs on California Intellectual Property Laws
Our Redwood City Business Lawyer Answers Common Questions
Intellectual property rights can be essential to the success of a business. Inventions, creative works and trade secrets are responsible for the success of multi-billion-dollar companies. Coca-Cola Company is a perfect example of how intellectual property can make a business a household name. The famous soft drink manufacturer carefully guards the secret recipe to Classic Coca-Cola.
As a business, it is extremely important to protect your intellectual property from theft. It is also important to know what to do if another business or entity steals or infringes upon your intellectual property. Below, our Redwood City business lawyer answers common questions about intellectual property and intellectual property litigation.
- What Is Intellectual Property?
- What Is a Trademark?
- Should I Register a Trademark?
- How Do Patents Work?
- What Rights Does a Patent Owner Have?
- Can I Obtain a Patent?
- How Much Does a Patent Cost?
- What Does Copyright Protect?
- What Are Trade Secrets?
- How Can I Protect Trade Secrets?
- What Are Industrial Design Rights?
- What Are Trade Dress Rights?
- What Are Plant Variety Rights?
- Can I Sue for a Violation of Intellectual Property Rights?
What Is Intellectual Property?
For the purposes of business law, intellectual property is a creative work (such as content, music, artistic works, method of business or inventions) for which you possess the rights of use. You have the authority to make decisions on how your creative work is used or sold.
What Is a Trademark?
Trademarks are a unique identifier that represent a product or company. Examples of trademarks include symbols, designs, words or lettering. Unlike a patent, trademarks can last forever. Companies who register trademarks have exclusive rights to use their trademarks.
Individuals or businesses can face legal consequences for using a trademark without authorization. In some cases, these parties may have to pay damages to the entity who registered the trademark.
Should I Register a Trademark?
Your business could benefit from registering a trademark. The benefits of trademark registration include:
- Nationwide rights to use the trademark. Registration can help protect your brand’s usage in the United States.
- Legal rights to pursue business litigation for infringement. If you register a trademark, you may be able to bring a lawsuit against other parties who use the trademark without your authorization.
- Public recognition. Once you register a trademark, a small “®” appears next to your brand, which lets the public know it is a registered trademark.
Trademark registration provides additional benefits for businesses. If you want to learn more about how to register a trademark, you may contact our intellectual property attorney for a consultation.
How Do Patents Work?
You can obtain exclusive legal rights to an invention by securing a patent. Other individuals or businesses cannot sell, make or distribute an invention without permission from a patent owner. As a patent owner, you have the legal right to use a patented invention for profit.
However, you must go through a process to obtain a patent. You must demonstrate that the invention is new. Unlike trademarks, which last forever, patents only last for 20 years. Design patents last for 14 years.
What Rights Does a Patent Owner Have?
Patent owners have full control over their patented inventions. If you received a patent for an invention, then you can restrict third parties from using or selling the invention without your consent. If a third party were to use your patented invention without your consent, then you could have justification to pursue legal options.
Can I Obtain a Patent?
To obtain a patent, your invention must meet certain requirements. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will not grant a patent if your invention is too similar to another invention or creation. You also cannot obtain a patent for an invention that was disclosed or used by the public, whether in the U.S. or another country.
It helps to have an intellectual property attorney if you want to secure a patent for an invention. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office operates an extensive database of patented inventions. An attorney can help you perform research using this database before you submit a patent application.
How Much Does a Patent Cost?
The cost of a patent depends on the complexity of the invention or creation. Complex mechanical patents can cost between $5,000 and $8,000. Certain pharmaceutical patents can cost over $15,000. Our intellectual property attorney can help you determine the potential cost of a patent.
What Does Copyright Protect?
Copyrights protect many types of creative works, including movies, music, books, choreography and performances. If you have copyright over a creative work, then other individuals or businesses cannot use or reproduce the work for their own benefit.
However, you must be able to demonstrate that a creative work is unique before obtaining a copyright.
What Are Trade Secrets?
A trade secret is a plan or formula that a company uses for conducting business. For example, a trade secret can be a method for conducting business that provides an advantage over your competitors.
Trade secrets can also be specific formulas. If another company somehow obtained and copied Coca-Cola’s secret recipe, then Coca-Cola could pursue legal action against that company.
How Can I Protect Trade Secrets?
There are plenty of good reasons to protect trade secrets. If your trade secrets are responsible for making your business profitable, then you would not want those secrets to fall into the hands of a competitor. You could potentially use confidentiality agreements or include language specifying that certain trade secrets must be kept secure in an employment contract.
Certain physical and technical measures, such as securing the trade secret with encryption, is another potential option. Our Redwood City and Palo Alto business attorney can help you review options for protecting trade secrets. If a third party uses your trade secret, then you may have legal options to recover damages.
What Are Industrial Design Rights?
As a form of intellectual property, design rights protect the aesthetic value or visual design of an object. Your business may use a new design to manufacture products. Industrial design rights offer legal protections for businesses and inventors who profit from the use of a new design.
If your business creates a new design and applies it to a product that becomes commercially successful, then it is important to seek legal protections for the new design.
What Are Trade Dress Rights?
Businesses may use various visual elements to promote their products and services. Packaging, decor and display stands can help a business stand out in a competitive environment.
Trade dress rights can protect products sold in unique and commercially successful packaging. In addition, trade dress rights can protect a distinctive decor a business uses to attract customers.
However, packaging and decor must meet certain requirements before your business can obtain trade dress rights. To learn more about obtaining trade dress rights, we encourage you to contact our Redwood City business lawyer for a consultation.
What Are Plant Variety Rights?
You can obtain exclusive rights to plants and plant materials under the right circumstances. If a horticulturist breeds a plant that is of a new and improved variety, then he or she may be able to obtain these rights. Plant variety rights allow you to sell licenses to grow or use the variety of plant and its materials.
Can I Sue for a Violation of Intellectual Property Rights?
There are a couple of ways to handle intellectual property right infringement, which occurs when a person or business uses intellectual property without authorization.
You may be able to send a cease and desist letter to the party that is using your intellectual property without your consent. In most cases, a cease and desist letter is the first step a business takes to resolve an intellectual property dispute.
It may be necessary to pursue litigation against the other party if it continues to use your intellectual property without authorization. You may also be able to arbitrate or mediate the situation.
Our intellectual property attorney can help your business pursue legal options against another party for intellectual property infringement.
Contact Our Intellectual Property Attorney for More Information
Our intellectual property attorney helps businesses in Redwood City, Palo Alto and the surrounding areas. Intellectual property is a complex area of business law that can be very difficult to navigate without experienced legal representation. Our business attorney has more than a decade of experience helping businesses with intellectual property matters.
To schedule a consultation with Winghart Law Group, Inc. call (650) 332-2994 or use the contact form on our site.