Depending on the type of idea you have, there are certain types of protections that the federal and state laws can offer. Federal law offers protection in the form of patents, trademarks and copyrights. State law offers protection against loss of trade secrets and unfair competition.
At the Law Office of Mathew R.P. Perrone, Jr., in Algonquin, Illinois, we assist clients in a wide range of intellectual property matters, concentrating on patents, trademarks, copyright law and the protection of trade secrets and other proprietary information. We invite you to get in touch today for skilled, attentive professional service.
The patent laws offer protection for a compound, a composition, a process, a machine or an article of manufacture, as well as new and useful improvements on one or more of those classes. A patent is also possible on an asexually produced plant or a decorative article.
If a person can obtain a patent for an idea, he or she has the right to stop others from making, using or selling that idea for a period of time. If somebody copies a patented idea, the patent holder has an automatic right to file suit and possibly receive an award of attorney fees and punishment in addition to normal damages. The punishment can be as much as three times the damages proved.
Copyrights protect written works, music, computer programs, statutes and other types of artistic works, such as paintings. If a copyright is obtained, the person who owns the copyright has the sole right to make copies of whatever it is the copyright covers. If a person comes up with the same copyrightable idea independently, that person not only may use that idea, but may also be entitled to a copyright on that idea.
Trade secret involves something that cannot be analyzed easily. If a person makes an item or a composition which cannot easily be designed (or reverse engineered) by examining the item or composition, a trade secret can be used to protect the idea. To protect this trade secret, the knowledge of how to make the item must be kept to a restricted few. For example, one of the best-known trade secrets still in existence is the secret for manufacturing Coca-Cola. Only four or five people know the exact formula. Careful precautions are made to keep the formula secret and avoid the problem. This formula has been a trade secret since the 1890s and is still marketed today under the name Coca-Cola Classic.
A federal trademark is provided for based on the commerce clause of the Constitution. As such, one must achieve use of the trademark in interstate commerce even before a trademark can be registered. One may file an intent to use application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office without having this use in interstate commerce, followed by proof of use in interstate commerce, although fees and costs increase.
However, the faster the mark is used and the sooner the trademark application is filed, the more complete protection is obtained.
Unfair competition involves theft of or inappropriate use of information obtained from a person in an inappropriate manner. This is an extremely difficult matter to prove and is handled for the most part by state law.
Thus, it may be seen that there are a number of ways to protect an idea. The laws provide for protection for ideas. Any investments in a patent or copyright must be carefully considered. Patents especially are expensive, relatively speaking. There is no guarantee that one can make money on a patent. Therefore, the investment in a patent must be carefully considered. T
We Can Help You Protect Your Idea
The best assumption to use when applying for a patent is that money is being spent, for which, a reward may never come.
If you are considering protecting an idea, contact our office to schedule a consultation with an experienced lawyer about your specific situation. Call 847-915-4475 or complete the online form.