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Aliso Viejo California Intellectual Property Law Blog

Trademarks and service marks: The differences to know

When you run a business, you want to make it stand out. Most businesses do this by creating a service mark or trademark. Each has its own purpose.

These symbols represent products and are an asset of the company. It's important that they're protected and aren't infringed upon. Infringing on a trademark could confuse customers and make them think they're buying something they aren't.

Should you register a trademark?

You started a new business and came up with a great logo that you feel fits the style of your company. You need to protect it, because the last thing you want to see is another company using your trademark.

As a business owner, you have a few options. You can do nothing and still be protected, but it's also a good idea to consider registering your trademark.

How can you protect trade secrets?

If you run a business, you know the importance of protecting your business's assets. One of those assets may be a trade secret. A trade secret is any specific recipe or way of doing things that sets your business apart and makes it profitable. For instance, if you pick up a can of Ragu at the supermarket, you'll notice that no one else has the recipe. That's because Ragu's recipe is a trade secret that is protected intensely.

Most states in the United States have adopted the Uniform Trade Secrets Act or a form of the act. This act helps recognize trade secrets and identifies what qualifies as a trade secret. Interestingly, businesses are still responsible for keeping the secrets as safe as possible.

Patent infringement: You can fight it and recover your losses

You have patents on all your most important goods. You've been selling them for years, and the patents you have protect your products from being copied by others. Despite that, you've recently seen a few companies put out similar items. One of your old employees works at one of those companies now, so you have an idea about how they got the information they have now on how to recreate your product.

Patent infringement is a serious allegation to make. Patent infringement happens when someone takes and sells, uses or makes a patented item without permission from the patent holder. The person who holds the patent can choose to sue the person who has violated his or her patent for the unauthorized use.

Trade secrets: You can litigate if trade secrets are exposed

Imagine building up your business from the ground. You have special menu items at your restaurant and secret ingredients that make people come back over and over again. These are your trade secrets. Trade secrets are called secrets for a reason. If you give them away, your business could end up falling out from under you. Certain formulas and business practices are your specific creation, so it's important to protect those ideas. 

How can you protect your trade secrets? First, start by identifying them. If you have a specific method, process, device or technique, you need to identify your asset as a trade secret. Recipes, for instance, are a particular kind of trade secret that could make or break a brand. Imagine if Coca-Cola's formula suddenly hit the market; there would be a sudden introduction of duplicate products, and the company would no longer be as prestigious and one-of-a-kind as it was in the past.

SCOTUS to hear case against "patent trolls"

The patent and intellectual property arenas are difficult ones, even for attorneys. It is sometimes hard to understand exactly what protections and rights preexisting patents, trademarks and copyrights bestow. Some uses are acceptable, while others are not. In some instances, it is proper to seek judicial relief against intellectual property violations, but other times such action is borderline frivolous.

An entire cottage industry of allegedly abusive patent-related legal claims - by so-called "patent trolls" or "non-practicing entities/NPEs" - is closely watching an upcoming case set to be decided by the Supreme Court of the United States during their upcoming fall session. That case, Oil States Energy Service v. Greene's Energy Group, specifically deals with the use of inter-partes review (IPR) of patent infringement claims and disputes by the Patent Trials and Appeals Board (PTAB) of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Marijuana branding a trademark concern

If you've ever smoked marijuana or been interested in the different strains, you know they have some interesting names. While they're clever and easy to remember, some may infringe on business' trademarks, which is an issue that has recently come up.

With marijuana becoming legal in a number of states, there are other problems starting to crop up. One of those problems is violating trademark. An Aug. 25 report describes the trouble one marijuana grower has gotten into as a result of trademark infringement.

Fighting against cybersquatting

In today’s increasingly digital world, a company’s online presence can have a very big impact. It could affect many key things for a company, such as its reputation among consumers and how it reaches out to new and existing customers. Such things can impact the overall strength of a company’s brand, which could have major ramifications for its bottom line.

Now, there are things that could do significant damage to a business’ online presence. Some of these dangers can come from outside sources. One example of this are cybersquatters.

Matal v. Tam: The Supreme Court rules that "disparaging" marks can be trademarked

The Supreme Court has ruled that a trademark law that prohibits registration of a trademark that "disparages" others violates the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.

TC Heartland LLC v. Kraft Foods Group Brands LLC: The Supreme Court Decision Will Essentially Eliminate Patent Forum Shopping, Allowing Patent Holders To Defend At Home

On May 22, 2017, the Supreme Court published its decision in TC Heartland LLC v. Kraft Foods Group Brands LLC, 581 U.S. __ (2017), concerning venue in a patent infringement suit.  The question before the Court was whether the 2011 amendment to the general venue statute 28 U.S.C. §1391 replaces the definition announced in Fourco, and in so doing would allow a plaintiff to bring a patent infringement lawsuit against a corporation in any district in which the corporation is subject to personal jurisdiction.  Petitioner TC Heartland, is organized under Indiana law and headquartered in Indiana.  Respondent Kraft Foods, organized under Delaware law sued for patent infringement in Delaware, alleging that TC Heartland's product sold in Delaware infringed one of Kraft's patents.

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