Intellectual property disputes can be difficult to navigate in an increasingly digital and complex world. The Business Trial Group helps our clients address issues such as trademark disputes, copyright infringement, trade secret misappropriation, and patent infringement to ensure that their work is protected and that they are fairly compensated.
Intellectual property litigation can be prohibitively expensive for all but the largest corporations, but unlike other law firms, our experienced intellectual property attorneys work exclusively on a contingency-fee basis. This means that our clients pay no hourly attorneys’ fees or retainers, and pay nothing until we successfully resolved their case.
If your intellectual property has been infringed, you should seek the advice of skilled counsel to discuss your legal options.
Copyrights, Patents, Trademarks, and Trade Secrets
Litigation frequently arises over copyrights, trademarks, patents, and trade secrets. The legal remedies available for protecting your work depends on the type of intellectual property that is involved.
The owner of a copyright has the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, perform, display and license the protected work. If a person or corporation infringes on this right, there may be legal remedies, such as an award for any profits made by the copyright infringer and damages for past infringement.
Copyright protection can apply to works of authorship that include:
- Literary, musical, artistic, and dramatic works
- Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
- Motion pictures and other audiovisual works
- Sound recordings
- Computer software
- Architectural works
Works that cannot be copyrighted include ideas, facts, methods, systems, short phrases, names, titles, and utilitarian language.
Copyright law extends only to original works of authorship that are fixed in a physical medium (such as paper, canvas, disk, or computer drive). Copyrights generally last for the life of the author, plus an additional 70 years.
Under U.S. patent law, anyone who “invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof” may obtain a patent.
To qualify for a patent, an invention must be:
- Novel (different from other inventions in the public domain)
- Useful (accomplishes something or produces a result)
- Not obvious (from the point of view of an inventor)
Patents are granted for 15 or 20 years. A provisional patent application (“patent pending”) establishes an early filing date and gives the inventor one year to apply for a nonprovisional patent.
Anyone who makes, uses or sells a product that infringes on a patent may be held liable for patent infringement. Victims of patent infringement may be able to gain compensation to contribute to the loss of profits, for royalty payments, or for damages.
Trademarks are protected under both federal and state law. Trademarks identify and distinguish one party’s product or service from another party’s. They may apply to:
- Names (including Internet domain names)
- Images, symbols, colors, and logos
- Slogans and phrases
- Product design and product packaging
Competing trademarks are allowed to be similar. The legal test for trademark infringement is likelihood of confusion between two different brands that are commercially related.
Trademarks are issued in 10- year terms, but can generally be renewed indefinitely, as long as the mark requires ongoing protection.
In order to be a trade secret, information, including a formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique, or process must:
- Derive actual or potential economic value by not being publically available;
- Be the subject of the owner’s efforts to maintain its secrecy;
- Be difficult to duplicate or recreate
Trade secrets lack the formal protection of government registration but may be preferable to a patent or a copyright for some forms of intellectual property, such as:
- Customer lists
- Product formulas
- Computer algorithms
- Marketing strategies
- Manufacturing techniques
Trade secrets last indefinitely—provided they are kept secret. Once a trade secret is publicly disclosed, it is typically no longer protected.
Misappropriation of Likeness
A type of litigation that has become more common with the advent of social media and the increase in online marketing is the misappropriation of likeness.
Misappropriation of likeness is based on the idea that individuals have certain legal rights to their own personal brand, although they may not specifically have copyrights or trademarks connected with it. This is an increasingly common issue for public figures who have created a recognizably distinct personal brand and rely on its protection to preserve their livelihood.
An example of a misappropriation of likeness dispute would be the use of a photo to sell a product without authorization.
The laws around these types of cases allow parties to recover compensation for the unauthorized use of their likeness.
Legal Protection for Your Intellectual Property
The Business Trial Group has the resources, expertise, and commitment to ensure that you are fairly compensated for your intellectual property. We believe that hard work should be acknowledged and protected, not stolen or misused.
Because intellectual property cases can be complex, it is important to have an experienced legal team on your side. Our contingency-fee model aligns our interests with yours, so that every legal path we pursue is for one purpose: to win your case.
For a review of your intellectual property claims, fill out our no-fee, no-obligation form.