Establishing a legal foundation for your ideas and company is the backbone of any successful business. At Gearhart, we take great pride in helping clients achieve their goals and being a building block in their success.
A copyright protects literary works (including software code), musical, dramatic, choreographic, pictorial or graphic, audiovisual or architectural work, or a sound recording, from being reproduced without the permission of the copyright owner. Thanks to copyright law, this gives the author or current owner sole right to authorize copies or reproductions of the work and to create derivative works. All an author has to do is register the work to obtain their copyright registration certificate. The author(s) may transfer the copyright to any other party if they choose to do so, and this will need to be recorded with the U.S. Copyright Office. The right lasts for the rest of the author’s life, plus 70, 95 or 120 years, depending on the nature of authorship and creation date of the work. Sounds simple, right?
Copyright may appear easy to the layperson but can be challenging in practice. That’s why copyright services are so important. For instance, it is of the utmost importance that a legally enforceable agreement be used to transfer any one of the bundle of rights. Without it, ownership and title to the work may be in dispute and unlike the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which offers an internal administrative process for resolving most disputes, the arena for copyright disputes is the United States courts. At Gearhart Law, we work with you to ensure that your copyrighted works are not only protected but that any use, transfer or commissioning of a work is protected as well. We also guide creators and innovators in understanding the overlap between copyright and patent and trademark law and illuminate concepts such as fair use of copyrights so that you can better appreciate the line of where copyright infringement starts and ends. After all, if you create an original work of art, the least you can do is protect and profit from it over your lifetime.
When companies buy or invest in other companies, they conduct due diligence, looking into the company’s records to make sure there are no legacy issues or financial misrepresentation and to ensure that intellectual property portfolios are of sufficient quality and properly protected. If a patent won’t stand up in court, it’s worthless. For companies with high-value brands, buyers need to ensure that trademarks are valid and their ownership is correct. Companies seeking investment will also conduct legal audits to make sure they have the most complete IP portfolio possible.
Gearhart Law has been on both sides of the equation. From the small entity side, we’re happy to say that our patents, and in particular our biotech patents, have withstood scrutiny by law firms acting on behalf of investors during the due diligence process. From the investors’ side, we’ve discovered flaws in the IP portfolios of some of the firms they’re evaluating. When flaws are discovered, investors can then decide how to proceed, either by demanding the flaws be fixed, if possible, or by re-negotiating the terms of the investment.
Once an inventor or business has filed for or obtained intellectual property protection, they are often left with the question of “what now?” For many, the “what now” equates to “how do I make money” from intellectual property. There are many options available to inventors and businesses alike to assist in commercializing intellectual property.
A non-disclosure agreement is an agreement between at least two parties that outlines confidential material and information that the parties wish to share with one another for certain purposes but wish to restrict access to or by third parties. A license is an agreement that enables the owner of intellectual property to make money from an invention or work by charging a fee, typically a royalty, for product use by a third party. An assignment is an agreement that transfers some portion of the ownership interests in intellectual property rights, traditionally in return for a monetary payment.
The above non-limiting examples illustrate the vast differences in the agreements that abound in the intellectual property field. Gearhart Law has the experience and expertise to not only draft such agreements, but to review and red-line agreements received by our clients from third parties to best ensure our clients’ needs come first.
More and more, information assets are what define a company’s competitive value. Relying on patents, copyrights and trademarks to safeguard their positions in the marketplace is key, but those protections have limits. In many fast-moving markets, businesses have come to rely more on confidentiality to protect the value of their innovations. These are known as “trade secrets” and encompass confidential business information, product designs, manufacturing techniques and strategic information like client lists and pricing strategies.
At Gearhart, we protect our clients and their trade secrets to ensure their competitive advantage is not lost, stolen or deliberately taken, for instance through a malicious system attack, when an employee leaves for a competitor, or when a supplier misuses valuable technology obtained under a confidentiality agreement. Under the recently passed Defend Trade Secrets Act, businesses—for the first time—are allowed to file claims under federal law against those who misappropriate their confidential information. Until now, trade secrets have been regulated by state laws, which differed from state to state. With the passage of the new law, we can assist businesses in designing policies to conform to a single nationwide standard.
In patent law, there are three main parts to patenting an invention. First, a global or U.S. patent search is conducted over many proprietary databases to make sure your invention is original. Second, a detailed patent application is drafted and filed with the patent office to establish that your concept is unique. The application must take into account not only the invention, but also the legal landscape, prior patent submissions and the inventor’s commercialization plans. The final step is to prosecute the patent with the USPTO until it’s approved. The entire process takes years to finalize, so it’s important you work with someone experienced in patent services and people you trust who will be committed over the long-term.
We’ll help you maximize your chances of success with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) and minimize prior art issues with competitors by understanding prior patent submissions in your field, the overall review process and how to draft the proper point of view in the application.
The USPTO does not grant a patent just because the paperwork has been filed; we must argue the points of the patent with the patent examiner and convince him or her that the invention meets all of the USPTO’s requirements.
Your chances of success in this step are increased if you use an experienced patent attorney who has dealt with the USPTO on patent inventions and is familiar with their requirements. Time and time again, Gearhart Law has consistently helped our clients achieve success.
Our experience spans patent application drafting, domestic and international patent prosecution, due diligence, opinion rendering for infringement and validity, agreement and transactional work, expert testimony and litigation support.
Your brand is your product and service name. We will fight to protect your point of difference. A trademark is an affordable way to get federal protection for the name of your product or service, and our trademark services help to make that an easier process. Once you have a registered federal trademark you can use the symbol ® in connection with your mark. Having a trademark helps your customers to recognize your product or service over your competitors’.
To get started you don’t need to have the name in use yet—according to trademark law, a trademark can be filed as an intent-to-use mark. You merely need to have good faith intent to begin using the mark. Once you are ready to use the name in commerce, we can help you secure the federal registration you need. We can assist you from the first step of choosing your brand, searching the registered trademark database to make sure your desired trademark is available, through the category research and registration procedure. We can continue to provide assistance in maintaining the mark and monitor possible infringements and advise you if any actions are needed.
Whether you’re operating in New Jersey, New York, or Philadelphia, a trademark is a great way to add value to your business. Let Gearhart Law provide you with the comprehensive service you deserve.