Why do I need a patent or trademark attorney? »
Without an attorney to handle the complex legal and technical issues involved in obtaining good patent and trademark protection, you are very likely to end up with something so narrow in its scope (and therefore easy to get round) that it is really not worth the paper it is printed on. Trying to save money on a patent or trademark application can prove a very costly mistake. A qualified patent or trademark attorney is trained to achieve the best protection for the invention or brand. This involves fully understanding the client’s business requirements and thinking strategically to choose the right form of protection, and then the best possible legal and technical wording to achieve that.
My product is now selling well. Can I get a patent for it? »
You are almost certainly too late to get a patent. For most countries, the basic requirements for grant of a patent are that the alleged invention must be new and inventive at the date the patent is applied for. If you have already made details of the invention available to the public, through advertising, sales, public use, articles in the paper, or whatever, then it is not new, and you cannot get valid patent protection. It is important to seek advice from a patent attorney before making the invention available to the public in any form. If you really need to speak to anyone else about the invention before you have applied for a patent, make sure you have written confirmation of confidentiality.
Do I need a patent to put my product on the market? »
The simple answer is No. A patent doesn’t give you the right to sell a product; it simply gives the legal right to stop other people doing something. This right will need to be enforced by going to court. While this might seem puzzling at first, think about the way products develop. Take photocopiers, for example. The original patents would have covered the basic xerography process. Later developments involved the use of a rotary drum rather than a flat plate, and might well have been patentable in their own right. However, since the basic process was still being employed, the inventors of the rotary drum system would not have been free to make and sell such a photocopier without permission from the owner of the original patents. Equally, the original inventor would not have been able to use the rotary drum invention without permission from the later inventor. This leads to a system of “master” patents and improvement patents that control many areas of technology.
Why do I need to register my trade mark? »
An unregistered trademark does not belong to you. You might be able to establish some rights on the basis of an extensive reputation in a trade mark, backed up by serious legal evidence, but just being the first to use a trademark is not enough. By contrast, a registered trade mark establishes ownership of a brand in respect of specified goods or services, and action can be taken against anyone who uses the same or a confusingly similar brand for the same or similar goods or services. Registration also defines your claim to the trade mark, ensuring that others are warned off. Without this, your freedom to develop your brand could be severely limited in future, or you could even lose it. Having a registered trademark can also enable you to control registration and use of domain names, whereas the reverse is not true – owning a domain name (or a limited company name) does not give you any rights in the name as a brand.
Can I get a world patent or trademark? »
No. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a world patent or trademark. Broadly speaking, rights are nationally based and therefore only effective in the particular territory. So, for example, a US patent can only be used to control the use of an invention in US territory, and a UK registered trade mark will not have any effect in France. There are various treaties and conventions that provide common routes for obtaining national patents and registered trade marks, but the end result is still national rights. The exception to this is the European Community Registered Trade Mark and Registered Design, which provide unitary rights for the whole of the European Community. Some other regions provide similar arrangements. We can advise you on the best and most cost-effective way to obtain protection in your company’s markets.
I own a domain name and I have the limited company name. Surely that protects me? »
Ownership of a domain name does not necessarily give you any rights to use it. If you acquire a domain name that someone else has registered as a trade mark for the same or similar type of business, you could risk having the domain forceably transferred to the other business, with no compensation for what you have spent on it. So while registering every possible combination of domain names to try to protect a brand might seem like a good idea, you might need hundreds to block off all the practical possibilities. One trade mark registration could give you a much stronger possibility of controlling the name.
Equally, registering a limited company name carries with it no guarantee that you are free to use the name as a trade mark – as a means of identifying your business or its products or services. Again, ownership of a registered trade mark in the same field will take precedence. For more information about our domain name advisory services, please click here.