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Patent, Trademark & Service Mark Law

Pleasanton Lawyer Protecting the Interests of Your Business

Patent, trademark, and service mark law can have significant implications for your business. Taking the proper steps to protect your intellectual property from infringement can help your business grow and reach its objectives. Proper registration may provide necessary protection against infringement, dilution, unfair competition, and other potential disputes. In some situations, it is a prerequisite to bringing suit. If you need a Pleasanton business attorney for representation in matters concerning patent, trademark, and service mark law, you should contact the Law Offices of Stephen M. Fuerch.

Patents

Patents grant those who hold them exclusive rights to exclude others from using, making, selling, or importing an invention for a specified period of time. They are governed by the United States Patent Act. In order to be patented, the invention must involve patentable subject matter, utility, non-obviousness, novelty, and enablement. Many different kinds of innovations can be subject to patent protection, but abstract ideas and laws of nature cannot. There are three different types of patents: utility, plant, and design patents.

Utility patents, which are the most common type, may be obtained for new and useful processes, new and useful improvements, machines, articles of manufacture, or compositions of matter. For instance, if your Pleasanton business invented a new type of equipment that assisted with kidney dialysis, you could apply to the United States Patent and Trademark Office for a utility patent. Utility patents have a 20-year term.

Design patents are less common, but they are appropriate when a manufactured item has a new or original design. This type of patent allows a business to exclude others from making, selling, or using the patented design for 14 years from the date when the patent was granted.

When new and distinctive asexually reproducing plants are discovered or invented, it may be appropriate to apply for a plant patent. Plant patents allow companies to exclude others from using, making, or selling the plant for 20 years from the date of the patent application.

Trademarks

Both federal and state laws provide protection for trademarks, but in most cases, trademark infringement lawsuits are pursued under the federal Lanham Act. Federal trademark registration provides a legal presumption that a registrant’s mark is valid and owned by the registrant. It provides the registrant with the exclusive right to use the trademark around the nation or in connection with particular goods and services. Federal trademark protection can last indefinitely, but it must be renewed every 10 years. Prior to registration, a business would need to establish that it was the owner of the trademark and currently using the mark in business.

When a trademark owner believes that its mark is being infringed, it may retain an attorney to file a civil lawsuit in federal or state court for trademark infringement. In order to prevail in a trademark infringement lawsuit, a plaintiff would need to show that it owns a valid mark, it has priority, and its rights are senior to those of the defendant. There must be a likelihood of confusion for consumers about the source of the goods offered under the defendant’s mark. A trademark owner may also have a claim for trademark dilution if it owns a famous mark, and the defendant’s use of the mark tarnishes the mark’s image or diminishes its strength in another way, even if consumers are not likely to be confused.

Remedies may include an injunction ordering the defendant to stop using the mark, monetary relief involving a defendant’s profits and compensation for losses, an order to destroy or forfeit any infringing materials, and attorneys’ fees.

Service Marks

Service marks are similar to trademarks, but they are used to distinguish services provided to consumers by one company from those provided by another. A service is something intangible that one party provides for another party’s benefit. Service marks include any word, design, symbol, phrase, or combination of these elements that is used to identify a service provider and help avoid consumer confusion about who is providing the services. For example, “Hilton Hotels” is a service mark. Like trademarks, they are protected under the Lanham Act. The same mark may be both a trademark and a service mark, unless the services provided are too closely connected to the sale of goods. Again like trademarks, even after they have been registered, service marks are mostly protected to the extent that a business uses them continuously and defends them against use by others.

Retain an Intellectual Property Lawyer in Pleasanton

IP registration and rights allow companies to protect themselves and enforce rights that make them more competitive and valuable in the marketplace. If you need a seasoned Pleasanton attorney to handle patent, trademark, and service mark law matters, you should call the Law Offices of Stephen M. Fuerch at (925) 463-2575 or complete our online form. We represent clients throughout Alameda and Contra Costa Counties.