It is not uncommon for many of a business’s most valuable assets to be its intellectual property – the ideas, inventions, creations, and identifying symbols the business creates to market its brand or sell its products. Imagine the financial harm that could result if Coca-Cola’s signature formula for its cola soft drink was illegally divulged and copied by its competitors, or if the famous Apple logo was used by another technology company as a way of increasing that company’s sales. Unfortunately for many business owners, protecting their company’s intellectual property is not a priority. Many may not think to consult with a California intellectual property attorney until after they discover their ideas and inventions have been copied and used by a competitor. By then, it may be too late to prevent the financial harm that often results when a competitor obtains your business’s secrets.
How a California Intellectual Property Attorney Can Assist You
My name is Reena Sehgal, Los Angeles intellectual property attorney, and my firm’s mission is to help protect you and your business against unlawful infringement and use of its intellectual property. The federal and state laws governing intellectual property can be complex and difficult for business owners to understand. I have helped business owners take preventative action to protect their valuable inventions, creations, and ideas. I have also assisted business owners with curative action after their ideas or creations have been unlawfully infringed upon. Some of the ways in which I can help you include:
- Applying for intellectual property protection, including registering trademarks, applying for copyright protection, and applying for a patent (for example). It is important to know what intellectual property protection is available for your situation before applying: Attempting to apply for a copyright for an intangible idea, for instance, will waste your time and resources. Not only this, but the application process can be confusing and difficult to complete. I can advise you as to what intellectual property protection is available and appropriate for your situation and assist you in completing the requisite application process.
- Prosecuting cases of infringement. Infringement may occur when a person or business unlawfully uses or distributes your intellectual property. Timely prosecution of infringement cases is necessary to minimize the financial harm and harm to your business’s reputation and brand. Infringement cases are often very complex, so having a knowledgeable and competent attorney to help you present your case is essential to obtaining the best results.
- Defending against infringement claims. Just as you need an experienced intellectual property attorney to prosecute claims against those who unlawfully use your business’s intellectual property, experienced legal counsel is needed when another person or business accuses you of unlawfully using or duplicating its intellectual property.
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Frequently Asked Questions About California Intellectual Property Law
Because of the complexity of intellectual property law, it is common for business owners to have many questions about their legal situation and their rights. Some of these questions might include:
- Is my creation/invention/idea able to be protected? This depends on the facts of your situation. Each type of intellectual property protection (copyright, trademark, patent, etc.) has specific requirements that must be met before that protection will be bestowed upon your intellectual property. I can help you determine what, if any, protection your creation or idea is entitled to under the law.
- How soon should I apply for protection? Generally speaking, the sooner you apply for intellectual property protection, the better off you and your business will be. By employing an intellectual property attorney early, you will be able to apply for protection for your eligible intellectual property – and receive the benefits of protection – as soon as possible.
- What constitutes infringement? A case of infringement or unlawful use of your intellectual property depends on the facts of the situation as well as the type of protection you have in place. In general, though, intellectual property protection prevents another person from using your intellectual property to create its own derivative products, products similar to your own, and/or using your company’s brand or logo to market products or services that are similar to your business’s.
The Law Offices of Reena Sehgal offers pricing and payment plans tailored to our client’s specific needs. We offer flat fees for document preparation and are happy to set caps for hourly projects. We understand that pricing is a big concern for any business, inventor or entertainer and are happy to address the issue in detail, prior to making any commitments.
At the Law Offices of Reena Sehgal, we make it our mission to help your business succeed. The best way for us to accomplish this is to create a trusting and collaborative relationship. Therefore, we like to keep lines of communication open and make ourselves available for answering brief questions or responding to emails, texts and calls. We also will happily make time to discuss any concerns in person.
The Law Offices of Reena Sehgal is here to help you with all of your intellectual property needs. Contact Reena today by calling 818-582-2421 to schedule your free consultation.
For more information about trademarks and copyright, see below. We are continually updating, so check back soon for updated information, news and articles.
Helping You Succeed
The Law Offices of Reena Sehgal provides representation and counsel to business owners, inventors, and entertainers. The mission of my firm is simple: Helping you protect your legal rights and your livelihood. I can assist with business challenges, contract negotiations and drafting, and intellectual property protection. Whatever the challenge you're facing, I strive to resolve the issue to your satisfaction in a swift and efficient manner. At the Law Office of Reena Sehgal, I keep my clients informed about the process of their case so that they can be assured their situation is receiving the attention it deserves and so they can focus on other important issues.
A trademark is any word, name, symbol, device, or any combination thereof, that is used to identify and distinguish the goods of one manufacturer or seller from goods manufactured or sold by others. If the mark is used to identify and distinguish a service provider, then the mark is referred to as a service mark. The mark - the brand name, design logo, etc – associated with your product or service is the symbol of your hard work and the symbol of the quality of your product or service. It is the symbol that clients and consumers will eventually associate with your business.
The symbol “TM” is common-law trademark notice that is used in connection with an unregistered or registered mark, to inform potential infringers that a term, slogan, logo, or any other indicator is being claimed as a trademark. The use of “TM” does not guarantee the owner trademark law protection.
The symbol “SM” serves the same function as “TM”, as it provides notice of a claim of common-law rights, but it is used in connection with a service mark. It also does not guarantee the owner protection under trademark laws. Though an owner need not have mark registration to utilize “TM” or “SM”, it is best to make sure a new trademark is clear of conflict with other trademarks before adapting the trademark and using the symbol notice.
The symbol ® is a notice used adjacent to a trademark to advice the public that the trademark or service mark is registered. Use of the ® symbol on unregistered marks may result in claims of fraud where the owner demonstrates intent, knowing and willful misuse, and attempts to deceive or mislead consumers.
Though you are not entirely without protection without state and federal registration, the common law rights are very limited – they likely only protect you to in a extremely restricted geographical area. Furthermore, common law rights do not give you the ability to recover profits, statutory damages, attorney fees, or treble damages for willful infringement.
In the past, if you ran a small mom-and-pop store, in a small town, with no plans to expand, registration may not have been necessary. It was likely unnecessary to even file with the state. Due to geographically separated markets, multiple users could use the mark simultaneously without much likelihood of consumer confusion. However, today, with the advent of the Internet, geographical boundaries are meaningless. Almost all business owners start a website, or advertise online in another way, and a local consumer is likely to confuse your small mom-and-pop business with one of a similar name/mark located in an entirely different city or state. Therefore, even for a small business, state or federal trademark registration is generally deemed a wise investment.
There are a number of benefits offered to applicants considering a California Trademark registration, including:
- Favorable enforcement powers throughout the State.
- More freedom to advertise and promote your mark and build name recognition and goodwill for your business without fear of losing the mark to another within the State.
- Possible injunctive relief, profit disgorgement and attorney’s fees in the event of infringement.
- Places other potential applicants on "constructive notice" of the mark.
Furthermore, State registration is not subject to cancellation proceedings as with the USPTO or any other administrative proceeding. This provides a layer of protection not available at the Federal level. The process of obtaining state registration is typically faster and less expensive than Federal registration. Unfortunately, state registration generally only offers protection within California. In addition, the mark must actually in use before a California application may be filed and approved.
Federal Registration provides far greater advantages:
- Provides "constructive notice" of your ownership of the mark throughout the United States. That is, once your mark is registered on the Principal Register, anyone anywhere in the U.S. who starts to use the mark is presumed to know about your use. In the absence of a Federal registration, if someone in another state starts using the mark without knowledge of your use, they retain the right to continue using it, and may also be able to stop you from expanding your use.
- Use of the ® notice.
- Right to sue in Federal Court.
- Statutory damages and potential treble damages.
- After five years of registration on the Principal Register, the mark can be declared "incontestable", thereby preventing any prior users from contesting your mark.
- If your mark is registered on the Principal Register, you can file it with the US Customs and Border Protection Agency, which can help in stopping importation of infringing goods.
The federal trademark registration process typically involves five steps:
- The trademark availability search
- The trademark registration application
- Registration application review
- Publication for opposition
- Issuance of registration certificate
It can take anywhere from 10-12 months or longer from the time of application to the issuance of registration.
However, a trademark attorney can certainly be a valuable resource in the selection, clearance, adoption and registration of valuable trademarks.
The trademark application itself appears deceptively simple. However, there are application mistakes that can arise. The attorney can insure that your proposed trademark actually qualifies for federal registration and that the application is completed correctly.
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