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March | 2020 | Woodard, Emhardt, Henry, Reeves & Wagner | Patent, Trademark & Copyright Attorneys, Indianapolis, Indiana

2020 March

IP Gotchas: Failing to Recognize Your Company’s Intellectual Property Assets

March 26, 2020

Companies routinely focus on development and marketing of new ideas, particularly in the early days as a startup. Protecting intellectual property is often set aside for later after the idea takes off and the marketplace has indicated “there is something of value to protect”. However, this mindset can be a costly, or even crippling approach to take. The truth is your business is already generating intellectual property whether you realize it or not. Recognizing and protecting this property in the right way can have a big impact on your future success.

What are my company’s intellectual property assets?

Name recognition and customer loyalty. Whatever words, shapes, colors, sounds, or packaging you use to distinguish your products and services from those offered by others may be protectable as a trademark. Taking the right steps to identify your brand and protect it from competitors in the marketplace adds value to your overall bottom line.

Proprietary information. Any business endeavor is likely to possess proprietary information. Examples include customer data, steps in a manufacturing process, marketing analysis, chemical formulas, internal training manuals, and just about anything else that gives your business an edge in the marketplace. These types of proprietary information are likely trade secrets and failure to recognize their value and protect them can be catastrophic.

New products or services. In many cases, businesses form around new products or services that no one has considered before. These include new methods of making or delivering products, or new combinations of existing devices. If your business involves products, recipes, processes, or other new concepts you have not seen in the marketplace, patent protection is worth considering. An issued patent in hand can be a powerful way to scare off competitors and effectively build market share.

Creative works. Documents, plans, designs, computer code, marketing brochures, web sites, videos, musical compositions, and other such creative endeavors are the types of property you are likely already creating that might benefit from copyright protection. This is particularly true for public or customer facing materials that are important to your success as a business. Identifying these and protecting them is important, particularly in the digital age where copies are easily created and transmitted.

It is important for your success to investigate, recognize and inventory your intellectual property assets. Failure to take this important early step can result in hampered growth, or worse yet, losing control of the business venture altogether.


Debunking the “Poor Man’s Patent Myth”

March 19, 2020

Myth: If I write down my invention and mail it to myself through the USPS, I will receive some level of patent protection on my invention. (In some versions of the myth, I will receive protection only if I do not open the envelope).

This is the Poor Man’s Patent Myth and is truly a myth. US patent protection is granted only to those who receive an issued US patent from the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Moreover, the US switched to a “first-to-file” system in 2013 under which-in the event two applicants file for patent protection on the same invention-the applicant who files first is given priority. This is why some refer to obtaining patent protection as being, in part, a “race to the patent office”. There are, of course, some narrow exceptions to the “first-to-file” rule (e.g., the earlier-filer derived the invention from the later-filer); however, in any event an application must be filed with the USPTO as a prerequisite to receive patent protection.

Prior to the switch to “first-to-file”, the US was under a “first-to-invent” system. Under the “first-to-invent” system, a later-filing inventor could obtain priority over an earlier-filing inventor who filed for protection on the same invention if the later-filing inventor could show he/she was the first to conceive the invention and meet certain requirements (e.g., diligence to reduction to practice). Today, however, most inventors are working under the “first-to-file” system (i.e., the law under the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act). Therefore, best practice is likely filing a patent application early.

If you have an invention you wish to protect, contact one of the attorneys at Woodard Emhardt. Writing down your invention is a good exercise, but don’t believe the myth that mailing it to yourself gives you patent protection.

This is not legal advice, nor should it be construed as forming an attorney-client relationship. If you wish to have either with our firm, please contact one of our attorneys to begin that process.


Woodard, Emhardt, Henry, Reeves & Wagner, LLP Response to COVID-19

March 18, 2020

As we continue to monitor and respond to the spread of COVID-19, we want to express our commitment to the health and safety of our professionals, clients and the community. We want to assure you that we have implemented measures to provide timely, high quality legal service and value without interruption during this time.

We wish you well in this difficult time and encourage you to let us know of any particular concerns that you may have.


Federal Circuit affirms judgment that CleanTech’s patents are unenforceable due to inequitable conduct.

March 2, 2020

GS CleanTech Corp. v. Adkins Energy LLC, No. 16-2231 (Fed. Cir. 2020)

Woodard Emhardt attorney, Spiro Bereveskos, was on the trial team and cross examined the Cantor Colburn, LLP attorney who admitted “it sent a chill up his spine” to learn the inventors had sent the offer letter more than a year before the filing of the patent application. The original suit alleged that the defendants infringed plaintiff’s family of patents relating to ethanol production processes. The ensuing litigation culminated in the Court finding that the patents were invalid and not infringed by any defendant. Those findings were further bolstered at a trial in which the Court then found the patents unenforceable due to inequitable conduct by the attorneys. Woodard Emhardt attorney Spiro Bereveskos, Dan Lueders, and Lisa Hiday represent Defendant Iroquois Bio-Energy Company, LLC.