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Minneapolis Patent Law Blog

Basic steps for protecting intellectual property

In the salad days of piracy, the activity was very face to face. One craft, usually small and light, would outmaneuver a cargo-laden bigger vessel on the high seas and snatch the goods. Maybe with some bloodshed.

Today, piracy is most common in cyberspace. Anonymity reigns. Culprits don't have faces and they mask their IP address, the numeric designation identifying a user's location on the internet. There's no bloodshed, but estimates put the loss to the U.S. economy at between $180 billion and $540 billion.

SCOTUS broadens chances of patent owner damage recovery

A traditional view within patent law is that a patent granted for an invention or idea extends infringement protection only within the bounds of the country that issued the license. So, if you obtain a patent from the U.S. government, the law limits recovery for infringement damages to market losses within the U.S.

However, that rather bright line standard is a little fuzzier in the wake of a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. Last month, the high court ruled on a 7-2 vote that U.S. companies that lose profits from overseas markets due to infringement can seek recovery. The case now returns to the lower courts for a new determination on whether damages are owed, and if so, how much.

How common is patent infringement?

A phrase that is familiar among inventors, “Everything that can be invented has been invented,” is commonly attributed to a former U.S. Patent and Trademark Office commissioner near the turn of the 20th century, although some claim the quote came from a book published much later. Regardless of its origins, you and other inventors in South Dakota might think the saying is a bit silly. This certainly is an age of great technological progress, and there can be no predicting the inventions and innovations in the decades to come.

You may worry whether the influx of new ideas from researchers, scientists and innovators around the world can affect your own business. It may dismay you to learn that patent infringement occurs on a daily basis, whether accidental or intentional.

10 millionth US patent reflects advance of technology

"You've come a long way, baby." That was the slogan Phillip Morris used to market Virginia Slims, the first cigarette brand marketed specifically to women. Like any legitimate intellectual property, that phrase is trademarked. But another event this week in Washington would seem to deserve some recognition with the phrase. On June 19, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued the country's 10 millionth patent.

The distinction, one that will surely go down in the annals of history, goes to inventor Joseph Marron. The firm that owns the patent is Raytheon Co. And if you want to claim your own measure of distinction, try saying the name of the idea out loud. If you can do it easily once, try doing it three times fast.

Velcro music video rips the world in defense of its trademark

Patent law has a reputation as being a rather muted area of practice. Those dedicated to it know that isn't true. It does have its quiet moments and the amount of detail to attention and paperwork it requires can be off-putting to some. But managing patents, trademarks and copyright processes is how new ideas begin to create value and that fosters innovation. There's nothing dull about that.

It is possible for a product and its brand to become so successful over time that it begins to become generic and the product risks the worst of all fates, genericide. Examples of this phenomena are easy to find. Aspirin, cellophane, linoleum and thermos were once trademark names for specific products and are now synonymous with a host of similar products. Some examples of marks that appear to be on the road to genericide include Kleenex, Dumpster and frisbee.

Is SCOTUS action a final curtain for alleged patent troll?

Inter partes review is safe and sound. We reported on this development in our last post. In two recent decisions, the U.S. Supreme Court declared IPR constitutional on one hand. On the other hand, it took the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to task being too arbitrary in the way it sometimes chose to exercise the IPR power it wields.

This week, we examine a decision by the high court to not hear another case challenging the IPR process and explore the implications that holds for protecting the creative output called podcasts.

Some rejoice, some protest SCOTUS rulings on patent reviews

It's sometimes hard to know who is the winner and who is the loser in a legal dispute. When the ball in play happens to be patent law, it can make filling in the win-loss columns even harder. That may be the case with two recent decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court.

We wrote about this issue in several previous posts, the most recent being in February when we noted that we would be watching to see how a challenge to what is called inter partes review (IPR) would shake out. At the time, observers had anticipated that the ruling wouldn't come before June, but the justices moved more quickly than that, issuing two rulings in related cases late last month.

IP protection: Safely navigating the long and winding road

"You have to spend money to make money." That's a phrase any budding entrepreneur has likely heard at some point. According to various sources, the line is credited to a Roman poet, philosopher and playwright and dates to several hundred hears before the start of the common era.

Not everyone agrees that it's true, but the notion clearly has endured the test of time. And it seems to be an appropriate matter in the context of intellectual property. As we have noted in previous posts, a great idea has value. How much value can be hard to gauge, but you can be certain that it erodes quickly if there's a failure to take the necessary steps to protect it. The question becomes, what's the best way to do that.

What is freebooting and why should I care?

Facebook is in the crosshairs over subscribers' personal data privacy. The issue is that the company, Cambridge Analytica, mined data of millions of Facebook users and allegedly used it to target political ads more than two years ago. Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg acknowledges Facebook mishandled the matter saying, "We made mistakes and I own them."

This is not the first scandal for the social media company. Back in 2015, a YouTube video creator accused Facebook of facilitating the thefts of hundreds of ostensibly copyrighted videos to boost its numbers on the volume of views it had provided. The allegation was that the Facebook users uploaded the videos without permission or credit. The concern was that copyright holders were losing out on potential revenue. The matter led to Facebook creating controls, but it took some 18 months.

Could USPTO leniency be the open door for patent trolls?

Just about anything seems to hold some potential for becoming weaponized these days. Cyber bullying uses social media to inflict shame and pain on others. Flaming arrows over Twitter have seen a resurgence of life lately, especially in politics. In the intellectual property world, many agree that the threat comes from patent trolls.

Unless you live under a rock (or perhaps a bridge), you know that patent trolls are individuals or entities who leverage patents in a legal way. As one recent study describes them, patent trolls obtain rights to patents from others who did the actual work. The attractive patents are those that offer an opportunity for asserting rights against alleged violators, usually in hopes of scoring financial settlements.

Don't risk losing your intellectual property rights by failing to act.

Register for patent, trademark or copyright protection by calling Kaufhold & Dix at 612-216-1161.

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