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Trademark Protection: Three Questions Answered for Small Businesses

When starting a business, it is important to establish brand recognition for your product and/or service.  In establishing brand recognition, it is essential for a company to protect the use of their brand whether it is a name, logo, slogan or any combination of the three.  A Federal Trademark registration is an excellent way to solidify protection of an up-and-coming brand while also preventing a competitor from operating under a confusingly similar name.

Here are a few common questions we have received from clients over the years regarding Trademarks:

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USPTO EXTENDS AFTER FINAL PILOT PROGRAM

The United States Patent & Trademark Office recently extended the current After Final Pilot Program until September 30, 2015, at which time the program will be up for renewal again. The After Final Consideration Pilot (AFCP) Program 2.0 which originally began on May 19, 2013 aims to reduce the number of Request for Continued Examinations (RCE) filed and increase the collaboration between the applicant and the examiner.

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Post Alice: A Nonexistent Wonderland Filled with Questions

On June 19, 2014, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank International, that basic business methods could not be patented, even if computers are used to apply them. An Australian company, Alice Corporation, owned the patents at issue. The case questioned the patent eligibility of Alice Corp.’s claims to a computerized method, a computer-readable medium containing computer instructions, and a computer system that implements those instructions. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the court and determined that “merely requiring generic computer implementation fails to transform [the] abstract idea into a patent-eligible invention.”

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DOMAIN NAMES . . . USE THEM OR LOSE THEM?

In today’s global economy coupled with the continued growth of e-commerce, businesses no longer exist only as brick and mortar locations, but instead must maintain an active online presence in order to gain and maintain a customer base. For better or worse, a business is associated with their online presence through their domain name. In most cases, a business has no issue in securing an appropriate domain that represents their interests, and assists with their search engine rankings. For instance, Company ABC, would most likely desire to register a domain for their business such as www.abc.com, however what happens if this domain is not available.

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Assignment of Intellectual Property Rights in Employment Contracts

Intellectual Property, namely patents, trademarks and copyrights are some of a company’s most valuable business assets, and accordingly, care should be taken to ensure that there is a clear chain of title with respect to ownership of these assets and that it is identified and determined at the onset of these creations. Unfortunately, there are many instances where ownership issues arises due to either poor planning on the part of the company, vague definitions as to what qualifies as a company asset and/or failure to have the necessary documents in place to automatically transfer an employee’s contribution directly to the company.

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Do I Need a Prototype to File a Patent Application?

A common question that arises during an initial consultation, especially with start-ups and individual inventors is whether or not a prototype of their proposed invention needs to exist before they are able to submit a patent application.  The simple answer is that an inventor does not need to have a prototype built in order to move forward with a patent application.

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I Have an Idea . . . Now What?

All of a sudden, one day you are sitting at work or at home and something pops into your head, you believe you have an idea that if marketed properly would be valuable and desired by the public.  On average, individual inventors usually develop ideas as a result of an everyday problem they have to deal with and yet the solutions available to them are not optimal, and thus feel that they can create a new product that fills this gap and will make everyday life a little easier.

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