The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has recently announced a new awards program to recognize brand owners utilizing their trademarks to make meaningful contributions towards solving humanitarian challenges. The Trademarks for Humanity awards competition will recognize brand owners improving the environment through their products and services.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) recently announced the launch of a new Green Energy Category as part of their Incentive Program. The program is designed to encourage innovation and development of green technologies and energy solutions, and the new category is specifically aimed at recognizing and incentivizing inventors and businesses that are working on solutions to combat climate change and reduce carbon emissions.
The USPTO is the federal agency responsible for granting patents and trademarks to inventors and businesses. The Incentive Program is one of their initiatives to support and promote innovation by offering various benefits to patent applicants who meet certain criteria. These benefits include expedited examination, reduced fees, and more.…
It’s funny the vast differences acronyms have. On Instagram, “FTO” stands for “flexible time off,” and on Facebook, it stands for the game “Faery Tale Online.” For purposes of this article and in the patenting world, an FTO is an assessment of the ability to make, use, and/or sell products/services without infringing another party’s rights.
Do I need an FTO performed if I already have a patent?
Now for my favorite attorney answer…it depends. First, we must understand what rights a patent gives.
A registered patent provides the owner of a useful, new, and non-obvious invention of patentable subject matter with the legal right to exclude others from making, using, or selling the patented invention for a limited period of time.
Isn’t “legal right to exclude” just a fancy legal way of saying that I have the right to make, use or sell my patented invention?
No! The right to exclude does not mean the same as the right to make, use, or sell.
To illustrate this, suppose inventor Sue Yoo develops and patents a system – that has not been previously invented – for preventing the sinking of a boat with a breached hull. The patented invention involves manually or automatically deploying helium-filled balloons which provide the boat with the ability to remain afloat. From these basic facts, it appears that Sue Yoo’s invention met the requirements for patentability, it is useful (prevents boats from sinking), new (hasn’t been previously invented), non-obvious (debatable but hey, for our purposes it’s not obvious), and of patentable subject matter (trust me on this one).…
A patentability search allows a patent practitioner to assess the likelihood of successfully obtaining a patent with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”). The USPTO may issue a patent to whoever invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, subject to certain conditions and requirements.
A patentability search allows a patent practitioner to better understand the scope of the state of the art, the level of skill of a person in the art, and the potential for obtaining a peiroatent registration that protects the new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter.
What does it mean to be “novel” and “non-obvious”?
To be patentable, the new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter (“invention”) must be novel and non-obvious. In assessing novelty, a patent practitioner searches and reviews the universe of prior art, such as issued patents, expired patents, patent applications, and other non-patent literature, to determine if the exact invention has already been disclosed. In general, a prior disclosure by a third party is a complete bar to patentability, and a prior disclosure by the inventor is subject to specific timing as set by statute regarding such previous disclosures.…
After years of research and development, your company is finally about to launch a new “game changing” product. You know you need to protect this product, but where do you start? What do you name your new product, and how do you protect that name? These and other frequently asked questions often arise in new entrepreneurial ventures — whether for new businesses or new product lines for existing businesses.
Most business owners intuitively understand the value of their intellectual property. They understand that their products, brands and other ideas need to be protected, but can be confused by some of the “jargon” used in intellectual property law with words like “patent,” “trademark” and “copyright.” This post helps explain some of the key differences between patents, trademarks and copyrights.
What is a patent?
A patent is a legal right to exclude others from making, using, selling, offering for sale, or importing a patented invention for a fixed period of time. In the U.S., patents are exclusively under federal jurisdiction and are awarded by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in exchange for making public an enabling disclosure of the invention, and generally last for 20 years (15 years for design patents).…
Product packaging is a critical part of every manufacturer’s operations (and even that of many wholesalers and retailers). A product’s packaging is often the first thing customers see: and first impressions count. That is why, for example, an entirely new discipline – packaging engineering – has grown over the last several decades and why companies like Starbucks® and Apple® work so hard to have every napkin, cup, box and bag uniformly branded.
Yet despite the obvious commercial and marketing importance of product packaging, many companies fail to protect the intellectual property rights embodied in such packaging – rights which can often be secured under patent, copyright and/or trademark law.
Product packaging is one of those often overlooked areas of intellectual property. Manufacturing clients rightly focus on protecting their products but sometimes forget that consumers usually see their packaging first. Failing to protect such packaging can be a major misstep since competitors often infringe upon both packaging as well as products.
A design patent protects the ornamental design (i.e., the “look and feel”) of an invention. In other words, design patents protect the way an invention (including, potentially, product packaging) looks. When most people think about patents, they think about a “utility patent” – something which protects utilitarian or functional aspects of an invention. But a “design patent” is different – it protects the appearance of an invention. That’s often perfect for packaging. In general, that means that new, useful and non-obvious packaging designs can potentially be protected.
Major companies have been using design patents to protect product packaging for over a century. For example, U.S. D48160 is a design patent issued in 1915 over what we now know as the Coca-Cola® bottle. More recent examples include everything from Chobani’s design patent covering product packaging for yogurt boxes (U.S. D828766S1) and Kraft’s design patent covering a salad dressing bottle (U.S. D659000S1) to Starbucks’ design patents for a coffee cup (U.S. D529762S1) and a coffee cup lid (U.S. D516424).
How should companies decide whether or not to consider seeking design patent rights?
COVID-19 has disrupted businesses and has wrought havoc with timelines and deadlines. Likely, it will continue to do so. Many government agencies, such as the IRS as we reported here, are reacting to COVID-19 by extending deadlines. For those with intellectual property-related deadlines in the near term, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) has recently made some policy changes in response to COVID-19.
While work goes on inside the USPTO, the building is closed to the public and any in-person business. All previously scheduled meetings or hearings before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (“TTAB”) or Patent Trial and Appeal Board (“PTAB”) are to take place by video or teleconference.
With regard to deadlines to respond to USPTO actions, inquiries or other deadlines, those are set by statute and rule and the failure to timely respond to a deadline results in an abandonment of the underlying trademark or patent application or registration.…
The past ten years have seen amazing advances in technology and the next ten promise even more. How has the law kept up to ensure intellectual property rights are adequately protected and what are some major driving forces that will shape IP Law over the next decade.
- Globalization. With the rise of e-commerce and the Internet, falling borders and widening markets, businesses are now almost instantly global. No matter where a business is located, it must think beyond its borders and where its customers are and must take steps to protect their intellectual property across national boundaries. While only a select few businesses needed to worry about global IP protection during the 2000s, by 2020 the issue has become far more generally applicable. This has required businesses and their IP counsel to consider global issues at all phases of IP development and to devise appropriate global protection strategies.
- The Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA). This 2011 overhaul to the United States Patent Act altered the long-standing US rule that the “first to invent” had superior rights to a “first to file” rule. This significant change brought the US patent system in step with the majority global rule. The AIA implemented other changes in the patent system, but the “first to file” change was most significant and just one of several that updated an antiquated statutory regime.
- IP as a Business Asset. For decades, the value of a business was primarily represented by its tangible assets — property, equipment, inventories, etc. This has changed, however, and intangible assets, specifically intellectual property assets, now account for significant portions of business valuation. Indeed, according to the IP-oriented merchant bank Ocean Tomo over 84% of the value of the S&P 500 in 2015 was represented by intangible assets. Further, the USPTO has reported that in 2014, “IP intensive industries” accounted for approximately one third of US GDP. With intellectual property becoming such a major component of the value of a business and such a significant element in our national economy during the past decade, businesses have had to adapt and become much more proactive to protect those assets.
- Alice. In Alice Corporation v. CLS Bank International, the Supreme Court ruled that merely applying an abstract idea on a computer is not patent eligible. What this effectively meant was that computer software programs that simply took abstract ideas—like hedging currencies—and implemented those ideas electronically could not be protected by the patent laws. This led to invalidation of a significant number of software patents and made it extremely difficult for software designers to patent their software. Designers had to react by resulting to different means to protect their inventions. While very few software patents have been issued since Alice, courts are beginning to interpret the decision in ways that pave the way for at least some wider availability of patent protection for software.
On June 21, 1788 the U.S. Constitution was ratified. It contains a clause in Article I, Section 8 providing that Congress shall have the power to
promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.”
This led to the Patent Act of 1790, signed into law by George Washington in April of that year. Since the founding, patent protection has been afforded to “new and useful” processes, machines, articles of manufacture, compositions of matter, ornamental designs and even plant strains. Patent protection provides inventors the right to exclude others from making, using, selling or importing an invention throughout the United States without the inventor’s consent.…
By a slim margin, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union (EU) last week. Via the European Union Trademark System and the European Patent Convention a trademark or patent owner had the ability to secure protection across all EU member states by a single, unified registration. Of course, EU protection extended only to EU member states. So, with the UK on the way out of the EU, questions arise as to what protection will the owner of an EU right have in the UK once the BREXIT is complete? For companies that do business in Europe, this could have an impact on European Intellectual Property rights. Smart companies should start considering European options now.
It will take at least two years for the UK to officially and fully withdraw from the EU. Until that time, all EU treaties and laws will continue to apply. So, for the near term, there does not appear to be any significant impact.