Los Angeles Intellectual Property Attorney
If you are searching for a Los Angeles intellectual property attorney‚ we can assist you. We are a full service intellectual property law firm, so we can assist with any trademark issues, copyright issues and patent issues that you may have.
Intellectual property rights in the United States date back to 1787 and Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, which gives Congress express authority to grant authors and inventors exclusive rights to their creations.
“The Congress shall have 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.”
Intellectual property laws are meant to promote knowledge. This is accomplished because inventors and creators know that they’ll gain protection over their creative works. This gives them incentive to share their knowledge with the public, and this act – regardless of how simple it may seem – adds to our collective intelligence.
While some forms of intellectual property weren’t codified or defined until much later, the overall goal of incentivizing innovation and improving society through information remains the same.
It’s important to mention that ideas themselves aren’t intellectual property. What you do with these ideas could be, but you can’t protect a thought until it’s been applied. The following are common forms of intellectual property:
- Trademark: This type of protection typically applies to words, symbols, phrases or designs that distinguish one source of goods from others. Nike’s “Just Do It” and the Starbucks logo both fall under this umbrella.
- Trade dress: This is a form of trademark. In addition to logos and catchphrases, trade dress covers all visual elements that are utilized for identifying a certain product or service. This could include anything from the décor in a restaurant to the shape of a soda bottle.
- Copyright: This applies to original works of authorship. The word authorship applies broadly in this situation. It can refer to a photograph, art, music, and computer software.
- Patent: Any new invention, discovery or improvement upon machines, useful processes, compositions of matter or methods of manufacture are patentable. The law in this area is broad and can also cover the discovery or creation of new plant species. Registration is required for protection.
- Trade secret: This form of intellectual property covers any confidential business information that offers a competitive advantage. These secrets can apply to industrial, manufacturing or commercial aspects. The whole point of a trade secret is to not register it publicly, instead it is kept secret.
Consumers rely on business brand names, logos, slogans, memorable packaging and other identifiable features to help them recognize manufacturers, companies and products they know and trust. This is the main goal of trademarks. A trademark identifies your business as the authentic source of the goods or services that you produce.
But what happens if another business starts using your trademark or one that is confusingly similar? This may be confusing to consumers and even outright deceptive. Through trademark registration and enforcement of the rights that come with it, you can protect your company and customers.
Trademarks are established in common law when they are first used in commerce. But formal trademark registration with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is far more beneficial. With registration, you can add the registered ® symbol to your trademark, putting everyone on notice that the trademark cannot be used without the owner’s permission.
If you learn that someone is using your trademark or a confusingly similar one on their products, stopping the infringement as soon as possible is of paramount importance. As the infringer continues that practice, consumers may be purchasing goods from an unreliable source, believing that you are the manufacturer. This can damage the trademark owner’s reputation in addition to taking profits.
The first line of defense in a trademark infringement matter is a trademark cease and desist letter. A USPTO trademark registration along with a cease and desist letter is often enough to convince an infringer to stop.
Unfortunately, some infringers may need more convincing. Perhaps they’ve been raking in the money or they don’t believe that their business practices or the trademark they’re using will meet the legal criteria for trademark infringement. In such cases, the next step may be to file a trademark infringement lawsuit. For more information, see our trademark page.
The way that a product is packaged—from the shape to the design, even colors and textures—comprise the IP category of trade dress. The Lanham Act protects trade dress when it serves to identify the source of the product or service, similar to the function of a trademark. Although trade dress can be registered as a trademark, most packaging and product configurations are protected even without this registration via 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a).
One caveat to trade dress protection is that the person who is seeking to assert such IP rights has the burden of proving that the material they want to protect is not functional. For example, a handle on a product that makes it easy to pick up is functional and thus cannot be protected as trade dress.
Copyright law covers protection of original works of authorship.
You don’t need to register your written works, digital content, photographs, etc. with the U.S. Copyright Office to own them. But you won’t be able to file a lawsuit for infringement unless you register your copyright. Copyright registration provides valuable benefits such as the ability to recover statutory damages and attorneys’ fees for post registration infringements.
You own exclusive rights to your copyrighted works. This means no one can copy, distribute, display or perform your copyrighted IP unless you provide authorization. Infringement occurs when someone performs one or more of those actions without any authorization by you.
To prove that someone infringed, you must show that they had access to your work before they violated your copyright. The work they’re selling or distributing need not be an exact copy, but it must be substantially similar. If you can prove access and substantial similarity, it is likely that the infringer copied your work.
Fair use is a common defense against copyright infringement. There are four considerations that may permit the copying of someone else’s work:
- The purpose of the use;
- The nature of the work;
- The amount of material that was reproduced; and
- The financial impact of the use on the copyright holder.
If you’ve taken the precaution of registering your copyright, then it’s likely you’ll want to pursue legal avenues when infringement occurs such as a cease and desist letter. Litigation may be necessary if the infringer doesn’t willingly stop their actions or denies the infringement. If your material is extremely valuable, you suffered significant financial damages, or the offending party made a lot of money from your work, you may want to consider filing a copyright lawsuit to be fully compensated for the harm. For more information about copyrights, please see our copyright page.
Patent law protects new, useful, and non-obvious inventions. Though common law protection exists for trademarks and copyrights, a patent application must be filed immediately to protect an invention or otherwise you will lose the opportunity for patent protection.
Only novel and non-obvious inventions are eligible for patent protection. And because most patent applications are for utility patents, your invention will likely need to be useful as well. For design patents, the appearance of the invention must be novel and non-functional.
Strict procedures are required to complete a successful patent application. Background research including a patent search is advised to determine whether your invention or one very similar has already been patented.
Patent Infringement and Litigation
A patent grants you exclusive rights to your invention. When you own a patent, no one can copy, manufacture, sell, import, use or distribute your creation unless you authorize it. A party infringes your patent if it utilizes all elements of one or more claims of your patent.
If you discover a patent infringement, you can try to stop it with a cease and desist letter. If the infringer was unaware of your patent or didn’t realize how closely their product resembled your invention, this notice will often do the trick. If it doesn’t, you may need to litigate.
The decision to go to court over alleged patent infringement should be made carefully. Prior to filing a lawsuit, your intellectual property attorney will have to perform due diligence to be sure that the patent was in fact infringed. If your patented invention has great monetary value and the infringement has cut into your profits, litigation may be the best option. For more information about patents see our patent page.
One lesser-known form of IP is trade secrets. A trade secret is proprietary information that is vital to the success of your business that is maintained through secrecy. Though registration isn’t available for trade secrets, you enjoy exclusive rights to this IP like you do with the other more common forms.
The list of potential trade secrets is virtually endless. The following are examples of some famous trade secrets:
- New York Times Best Seller List – compilations, patterns, processes
- Coca-Cola Recipe – formula, ingredients
- KFC Original Recipe – formula, ingredients
- WD-40 – formula
- Google Algorithm – system, process, procedure
- Krispy Kreme Doughnuts – process
When someone accesses and reveals your trade secrets without authorization – or even threatens to do so — you can pursue legal remedies under common law and the Uniform Trade Secrets Act (UTSA). You can also get a court order to prevent the misappropriation of your proprietary information prior to its release. If your trade secrets have been stolen by a competitor causing financial loss, you can sue for actual damages. Punitive damages may also be available.
To avail yourself of damages when your trade secrets have been stolen, you must demonstrate the following:
- Your trade secrets aren’t readily known or easy-to-acquire information.
- You took reasonable efforts to protect and maintain the secrecy of your trade secrets.
- The secrecy of the misappropriated information gave it economic value.
Intellectual Property Infringement Lawyers in Los Angeles
The first step with infringement issues is typically a cease and desist letter from an IP lawyer that states the intellectual property owner’s rights and demands that the entity stop its infringement. It often threatens a lawsuit if the activity does not stop and may also request the payment of damages. Cease and desist letters are often the precursor to a lawsuit.
Intellectual Property Litigation Attorneys in LA
When it becomes obvious that an acceptable agreement cannot be reached involving intellectual property infringement, it’s necessary to start a case in court. These issues are typically handled on a federal level.
Once the complaint is filed, both parties will have time to engage in discovery. It’s during this time that the plaintiff and defendant will seek out evidence to bolster their position in court. The parties will then have an opportunity to file motions for summary judgment to attempt to foreclose issues in the case. If no settlement has occurred and a case is not disposed of on summary judgment, the case will proceed to trial. Trials typically last several days during which the parties present their cases in an alternating fashion. Ultimately, a decision will be made by the judge or jury.
Mandour & Associates – Intellectual Property Attorneys
If intellectual property infringement is not corrected‚ it can lead to serious implications including litigation. If you are involved in an infringement‚ we encourage you to contact a Los Angeles intellectual property lawyer as soon as possible. We have handled hundreds of intellectual property infringement matters and will tailor our legal experience to fit the needs of your case.
For more information‚ please feel free to contact us.