US Patents Held By Foreign Companies

Foreign Companies and US Patents

Can Companies Outside the United States Obtain US Patents?

Yes. The United States has the largest Gross Domestic Product on earth. Foreign Companies that do not have a physical presence in the United States can sell their goods or services in the United States.

For most foreign companies, sales in the US market improve earnings for the foreign businesses.

Advantages of US Patents for Foreign Businesses

  • The United States has a long history of enforcing domestic or foreign Patentees’ rights
  • Granting a US Patent gives the Patentee the right to file a legal action to stop third parties from making, using or selling their patented invention
  • Under Title 35 of the United States Code, a foreign Patentee can sue an alleged infringer in a United States District court and win damages

Options for Foreign Companies

Foreign Companies filing a US Patent Application in the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) may:

  • Initially file the US Patent Application in the USPTO
  • File a Patent Application in their company’s jurisdictional Patent Office followed by the subsequent filing of the US Patent Application (prior to the expiration of the treaty deadline)
  • Initially file a Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) Application in the USPTO followed by the subsequent filing of the US National Stage Application (prior to the expiration of the PCT Treaty deadline)
  • File a Patent Application in your company’s jurisdictional Patent Office followed by the subsequent filing of a PCT Application claiming priority to the initially filed jurisdictional Patent Application
  • Prior to the PCT Treaty deadline, file a US National Stage Application in the USPTO which claims priority to the PCT Application filed by your company that claimed priority to the initial Patent Application filed by your company in its jurisdictional Patent Office

Basic Requirements for Foreign Company Patent Filings

  • English language translation/transliteration of the jurisdictional Patent Application or PCT Application – if the language of the as-filed jurisdictional Patent Application or PCT Application was not English
  • Pay USPTO Processing Fees
  • Submit Specifications and Drawings
  • Claims – usually presented in an “Americanized” preliminary amendment format to increase clarity and minimize USPTO Processing Fees
  • Provide Inventor(s) Declaration(s)

If all this sounds a bit complex, we can help. Business Patent Law, PLLC provides intellectual property and business counsel for businesses and companies.

If you have questions about filing your company’s US Patent Application, please contact Business Patent Law, PLLC and we will discuss possibilities for your business.

If you would like to stay up-to-date with news that impacts your business and intellectual property, sign up for Business Patent Law’s Monthly Mailer™ newsletter.

Business Taxes in 2019

Your Business Income Taxes

In the United States, businesses pay income taxes

For millennia, governments have taxed businesses and individuals. Payment of taxes on income generated by business is a quarterly/annual requirement in the United States. For as long as the business remains active, it will pay taxes. The filing of returns and the payment of income taxes can sometimes overwhelm small businesses owners.

As a small business owner, it may be possible to minimize taxes, by using a different business structure.

Select the way your company will be taxed

Some options for your business include:

  • C-Corporation (Inc.)
  • C-Corporation – Subchapter S
  • Limited Liability Company
  • Sole Proprietorship
  • Partnership

Selecting your company’s jurisdiction

Where you choose to incorporate or organize your company will impact your taxes.

If your company does business in several States, they will usually require you to pay taxes on income generated in each State.

Companies can, however, “shop” for States that do not have an income tax. In 2019, South Dakota and Wyoming do not impose State corporate income taxes or State individual income taxes.

Some jurisdictions give more favorable tax treatment to businesses incorporated/organized in that state which also have their principal office in the State, as compared to those formed in another State.

But, beware, in some States, lower State business income taxes may increase the total amount of Federal business income taxes.

Product logistics, the availability of qualified employees, energy costs and natural resources can sometimes dictate which State you select to incorporate or organize your business.

Federal Income Taxes for C-Corporations

C-Corporations are taxed on profits.  A shareholder receiving a C-Corporation’s profit distribution will also pay income tax on the profits received.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 capped the maximum tax rate for income generated by a C-Corporation at 21%.

Federal Income Taxes for Pass-Through Legal Entities

Subchapter S Corporations, Limited Liability Companies and Partnerships are known commonly as “pass through” entities.  Profits and losses generally pass through to the owners of the legal entity, so this income will be declared on the owners’ individual income tax returns.

With some exceptions, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 allows a Qualified Business Income Deduction of up to 20% of Qualified Business Income for sole proprietors and pass-through entities.

What is Qualified Business Income?

Qualified Business Income is the net amount of qualified items of income, gain, deduction and loss from any qualified trade or business. Only those items included in taxable income are counted and these items must be effectively connected with a U.S. trade or business. Items such as capital gains and losses, certain dividends, and interest income are excluded from Qualified Business Income.

Most growing companies eventually reach annual revenues where the combination of business counsel and tax counsel can improve the bottom line for your company.

Business Patent Law, PLLC does not provide tax counsel for specific matters, but does provide business counsel for businesses.

If you have questions about your company’s business structure, please contact Business Patent Law, PLLC, and we will discuss possibilities for your business.

If you would like to stay up-to-date with news that impacts your business and intellectual property, sign up for Business Patent Law’s Monthly Mailer™ newsletter.

Types of Confidentiality Agreements for Business

Confidentiality Agreements

Should Your Business Use Confidentiality Agreements?  

Should your company use confidentiality agreements?  If your business has information it needs (or wants) to keep out of the public domain, then yes. Information of this type may include:

  • Certain types of intellectual properties
  • Company information disclosed to potential investors and investors identities
  • Customer lists
  • Employee salaries
  • Independent contractor identities
  • Research and development assets
  • Suppliers identities
  • Tax returns
  • Trade secrets, etc.

As a general rule, once information enters the public domain, you can’t make it private. You have to be proactive.

Three Types of Confidentiality Agreements 

1)        Confidentiality Agreement

This agreement can be used when the involved Parties agree to hold the information disclosed in “strict confidence.” When the Parties become adverse or one of the Parties is seeking to avoid the terms of the Confidentiality Agreement, the Parties may argue over:

  • What was the information disclosed in “strict confidence?” (It is helpful to specifically identify the information covered in the Confidentiality Agreement itself)
  • What the Party receiving the disclosed information must do with the information
  • Which State’s law controls the provisions of the Agreement
  • Where the venue and personal jurisdiction will be, should litigation become necessary

2)        Confidentiality and Evaluation (CE) Agreement

Potential Patent rights (or Patent rights) can be the subject of a CE Agreement. A CE Agreement specifies that the subject matter disclosed is to be held in “strict confidence” and that the information is provided solely for the purpose of evaluation.  In the event one Party is dissatisfied with the CE Agreement, the same issues as identified in the above (Confidentiality Agreement) section will apply here. Additionally, this type of agreement will need to specify:

  • Is audible disclosure a disclosure to be held in “strict confidence?”
  • Is visual disclosure a disclosure to be held in “strict confidence?”
  • What happens when the Party receiving the disclosure evaluates the audible or verbal disclosure outside the jurisdiction where the Parties are domiciled?

This matters because any public disclosure related to potential Patent rights (prior to the filing of the Patent Application) can bar any future Patent related to the disclosed information

3)        Confidentiality, Evaluation and Noncompetition (CEN) Agreement

As with the two agreement types above, almost anything that one Party wants to be kept in “strict confidence” can be the subject matter of a CEN Agreement. Along with Confidentiality and Evaluation, a CEN Agreement also includes a Noncompetition (anywhere in the world) provision for the Party receiving the information. Whenever possible, Business Patent Law, PLLC recommends its clients use a CEN Agreement.

In the event one Party is dissatisfied with the CE Agreement, the same issues as identified in Sections 1) and 2) above, may also be grounds for argument between the Parties.

An example of when a CEN Agreement might be used: Private/nonpublic companies often have corporate bylaws that require shareholders to execute CEN Agreements before shareholders can be issued stock.

If a Business Fails to Use Confidentiality-Type Agreements 

Unless some type of Agreement between the Parties is executed, the disclosing Party has minimal legal recourse against the receiving Party repeating publically the disclosed information or using the disclosed information for another reason.

Here are a few ways such disclosures could become a problem:

  • Public disclosure of the company’s private information will likely temporarily disrupt the company’s operations
  • What would happen if all the company’s employees were aware of each employee’s salary?
  • What would happen if the company’s competitors were aware of the company’s research and development information?
  • A trade secret disclosed publicly is no longer secret and the secret is lost forever

What You Need To Know About Confidentiality Agreements

  • Confidentiality Agreements between trustworthy Parties can improve profits for both companies
  • The bargaining power of the Parties tends to influence the type of Confidentiality Agreement executed  (A publicly traded company will likely have a Confidentiality-type Agreement that is more favorable to the publicly traded company when contracting with a business having annual sales of $2M)
  • Bad actors tend to exploit the other Party to a contract (Character of the Parties matters)
  • Agreements executed between Parties who were not represented by legal counsel may be unenforceable
  • Confidentiality Agreements that were drafted for a first purpose may not be acceptable for a second (but similar) purpose
  • Without the advice of legal counsel, parties my draft contracts for almost anything they feel is important at the time the contract was allegedly executed (Some of these contracts may be enforceable, some may not)
  • If the alleged contract is only partially in writing, there may be issues when memories fade ten years later  (Get it in writing)
  • Perspective matters (Three different eyewitnesses can witness the same event and three distinct testimonies may be offered into evidence)
  • Written, properly executed agreements can minimize business disruptions

If you have questions about intellectual properties or agreements, please contact Business Patent Law, PLLC. We are here to help you grow your business and protect your intellectual properties.

If you would like to stay up-to-date with news that impacts your intellectual property, sign up for Business Patent Law’s Monthly Mailer™ newsletter.

Representing Yourself for Trademarks and Patents

Representing Yourself for Patents & Trademarks: Going “Pro Se”

Pro Se USPTO Representation

Pro se” is a Latin phrase meaning “for himself.” Under United States law, an Applicant can represent himself/herself/itself before the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO).

Can a pro se Applicant achieve favorable results from a USPTO Examiner? Maybe. Maybe not. Success may depend on the legal skill of the Applicant.

What is a “Favorable Result” for a Pro Se Applicant?

Favorable results include attributes such as:

  • Defensibility against an allegation of unpatentability
  • The durability of the patent or trademark
  • Enforceability
  • The scope of rights granted by the USPTO to the Applicant

Three Primary Types of USPTO Representations 

An Applicant can be a large company, a small company, a partnership, a trust, an individual, or another entity.

Large Businesses

Many large companies have “in-house” intellectual property attorneys who represent the large companies before the USPTO. If an “in-house” attorney fails to meet management’s objectives, the large company usually will hire another attorney who will meet the large company’s objectives.

For legal matters before the courts or other tribunals, large companies usually hire one or more “outside counsels” to represent the company. Sometimes, these intellectual property cases can have more than a billion dollars in potential damages.

Small Businesses with Resources

Small companies with sufficient revenues usually retain smaller intellectual property law firms to represent their company before the USPTO and the courts or other tribunals. The USPTO defines a small business as a legal entity with 500 or fewer employees.

Small Businesses, Start-ups or Individuals on a Tight Budget

Sometimes, small companies, start-ups or individuals opt for pro se representation before the USPTO, based solely on their budget limitations. Pro se representation by a non-lawyer may achieve favorable results for the Applicant. According to the USPTO database, it appears that favorable results tend to be more closely associated with Trademark Applications than with Patent Applications.

Be aware: if the pro se Applicant’s results are not favorable, the expense of hiring an intellectual property attorney in an attempt to achieve better results will likely be much more costly than it would have been to retain an attorney at the beginning of the process. Unfortunately for the Applicant, sometimes the facts associated with the Application are so unfavorable that issues with the Application cannot be corrected.

What if the USPTO Says No?

What can a pro se Applicant do when an Examiner refuses to approve the Applicant’s Mark for registration? What does the pro se Applicant (and now owner of a federal Registration) do when a USPTO Opposition or Cancellation Proceeding is initiated against the owner’s Federal Registration?

Business Patent Law’s Recommendation:  seek the advice of an intellectual property attorney who has experience practicing before the US Trademark Office. The experienced professional may be able to correct or resolve the Trademark Application issues and preserve the Applicant’s procedural and substantive rights.

What if an Examiner makes your Patent Application Rejection Final? 

The Patent Applicant’s options can include filing one of the following:

  • An Appeal
  • A Request for Continued Examination
  • A Continuation Application
  • A Divisional Application

An Applicant may also allow the Application to go abandoned.

Business Patent Law’s Recommendation: seek the advice of a patent attorney who has experience practicing before the US Patent Office. There is no substitute for a seasoned patent attorney representing the Applicant before the US Patent Office.

Meeting USPTO deadlines       

When seeking an intellectual property attorney to commence representation of a previous pro se Applicant, it is essential that an attorney be contacted with adequate time remaining before the USPTO deadline.  A well-seasoned intellectual property attorney will likely refuse to take on a previous pro se matter when notified only days before the deadline.

If you have questions about intellectual properties and representation before the United States Patent & Trademark Office, please contact Business Patent Law, PLLC and we will discuss possibilities for your business and intellectual properties.

If you would like to stay up-to-date with news that impacts your intellectual property, sign up for Business Patent Law’s Monthly Mailer™ newsletter.

Warranties as Effective Marketing Tools

Warranties: An Effective Marketing Tool

Warranties May Be Automatic

When a business sells goods, under the various State versions of the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), implied warranties attach to the goods sold – unless the UCC’s implied warranties are specifically disclaimed in writing. If your company sells goods to customers in various States and some defective goods were discovered subsequent to the sale, one or more State’s version of the UCC’s implied warranties will apply. In the event of litigation, attorneys for each party will argue for the most favorable jurisdiction and venue. You, as the seller, could be forced to defend a legal action in the buyer’s home venue.

As a general rule, warranties are not applied to services supplied by the company supplying the service. For instance, no warranty is implied by law for a business that assists customers with the purchase of insurance policies, unless that business makes a warranty to the customer.

The Legal Aspects of Implied Warranties

Merchantability

The UCC’s Implied Warranty of Merchantability, in part, reads: “(1) Unless excluded or modified (Section 2-316), a warranty that the goods shall be merchantable is implied in a contract for their sale if the seller is a merchant with respect to goods of that kind. Under this section, the serving for value of food or drink to be consumed either on the premises or elsewhere is a sale…”

Fitness for a Particular Purpose

The UCC’s Implied Warranty of Fitness for a Particular Purpose reads: “Where the seller at the time of contracting has reason to know any particular purpose for which the goods are required and that the buyer is relying on the seller’s skill or judgment to select or furnish suitable goods, there is unless excluded or modified under the next section an implied warranty that the goods shall be fit for such purpose.”

Warranty of Title and Against Infringement

The UCC’s Warranty of Title and Against Infringement reads, “(1) Subject to subsection (2) there is in a contract for sale a warranty by the seller that (a) the title conveyed shall be good, and its transfer rightful; and (b) the goods shall be delivered free from any security interest or other lien or encumbrance of which the buyer at the time of contracting has no knowledge.  (2) A warranty under subsection (1) will be excluded or modified only by specific language or by circumstances which give the buyer reason to know that the person selling does not claim title in himself or that he is purporting to sell only such right or title as he or a third person may have.  (3) Unless otherwise agreed a seller who is a merchant regularly dealing in goods of the kind warrants that the goods shall be delivered free of the rightful claim of any third person by way of infringement or the like but a buyer who furnishes specifications to the seller must hold the seller harmless against any such claim which arises out of compliance with the specifications.”

How to Eliminate Implied Warranties

In the majority of instances, the only way to eliminate the application of the various States’ versions of the Uniform Commercial Code to the sale of your company’s goods is to specifically disclaim the UCC’s implied warranties in writing.

Warranty Use as a Marketing Tool

Patented Product vs. Generic Product

As CEO of your company, you believe that invention is the lifeblood of the company and you have budgeted ten percent of annual sales for development, improvement and Patent procurement for the company’s new products. The company’s engineers have developed the third-generation widget which is patented and has also just received FDA approval. The company’s second-generation widget’s Patent expired years earlier and is currently manufactured by generic company competitors. Users of the second generation widget love the operation of the second generation widget manufactured by your generic competitors. Those users also like the price that is several thousand dollars less than what your company sold the second generation widget for before the Patent expired. Other than the UCC’s implied warranties and any other warranty required by law, the generic manufacturers offer no other warranties.

Competing with Generics

Your company’s patented third-generation widget includes radio frequency capabilities, memory, processing means, sensors, etc. not included in your second generation widget. FDA testing revealed that over a span of years, the patented third-generation widget is more durable than the second generation widget. The third generation widget performs healthcare functions impossible for the second generation widget to perform. Costs of the patented third-generation widget to the user are thousands of dollars more than the generic second-generation widget. Your company struggles to have its patented third-generation widget regain and improve its former market share previously achieved with its second generation widget.

Improving Market Share With Warranties

To improve the company’s market share of its patented third-generation widget, the CEO took instruction from the motor vehicle industry. The CEO opted to provide a ten year “bumper to bumper” warranty and commenced advertising that the patented third-generation widget was sold under warranty. The advertisement touted a limited ten-year warranty and superior performance compared to other widgets. Over the years, the marketplace has revealed that for high “price point” goods, generous warranties can improve sales.

Limited Warranties in Lieu of UCC Warranties

A business can offer a limited “bumper to bumper” warranty for its new product while expressly disclaiming the States’ Uniform Commercial Code’s implied warranties and other conditions. Depending on the type of goods and other facts, it is also possible for a business to expressly place limits on liability.

If you have questions about intellectual properties, warranties, and disclaimers, please contact Business Patent Law, PLLC and we will discuss possibilities for your business and intellectual properties.

If you would like to stay up-to-date with news that impacts your intellectual property, sign up for Business Patent Law’s Monthly Mailer™ newsletter.

 

Physician Sunshine Laws and Your Business

Physician Sunshine Laws And Your Business

Physician Sunshine Laws and Small Businesses

Does 42 U.S.C. 1320a-7h, known commonly as the “Physician Sunshine Laws-Open Payments” apply to a small business?  Maybe. If Physician Sunshine Laws (Open Payments Laws) are applicable to your business, you may also be surprised how these laws can be applied to your company.

Some States have their own version of physician sunshine laws. In some cases, the State version may apply when the federal version does not.

Many Business Patent Law, PLLC’s clients are involved with the provision of medical devices, supplies, etc. For most Business Patent Law clients, the Physician Sunshine Laws apply to an “applicable manufacturer” that “provides payment or other transfer of value” to a “covered recipient.”

Who Administers Physician Sunshine Laws?

CMS.gov (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) is the Federal Agency that Administers Physician Sunshine Laws (Open Payments). 42 U.S.C. 1320a-7h (b) sets forth penalties for failing to file a required report to CMS.gov.

Who Needs to Report to Under Physician Sunshine Laws?

Subchapter S Company Examples

Does a Subchapter S Company that Manufactures Surgical Sponges for Use in Operating Rooms and Gives Samples of the Surgical Sponges to Medical, Surgical and Dental Practices Need to Report to CMS.gov?

Yes, according to 42 U.S.C. 1320a-7h (e) which reads:

(2) Applicable manufacturer

The term “applicable manufacturer” means a manufacturer of a covered drug, device, biological, or medical supply which is operating in the United States, or in a territory, possession, or commonwealth of the United States.

(4) Covered device

The term “covered device” means any device for which payment is available under subchapter XVIII [Medicare] or a State plan under subchapter XIX or XXI [federal or state plans for medical assistance] (or a waiver of such a plan).

(6) Covered recipient

(A) In general…“covered recipient” means the following: (i) A physician [is a doctor of medicine or osteopathy, a dentist, a doctor of podiatric medicine, a doctor of optometry or a chiropractor – as defined by 42 U.S.C. 1395x (r).] or

(ii) A teaching hospital.

LLC Examples

Does a Limited Liability Company (LLC) Manufacturing and Selling Scalpels Need to Report to CMS.gov?

  1. If the LLC makes quid pro quo sales to dentists, physicians and hospitals? No. (There is no transfer of value or gift.)
  2. If the LLC supplies lunches for the surgical office and the employees? Yes. (The lunches were a transfer of value.)

Does an LLC (having one or more covered recipients holding a minority equity ownership interest) that manufactures radio frequency devices for treatment of the human body need to report equity ownership Interests to CMS.gov? 

It depends.

  1. If a dentist owns 5% equity in the LLC? Yes.
  2. When the wife of a surgeon owns 10% equity in the LLC? Yes. ***
  3. If a pharmacist owns 5% equity in the LLC? No.
  4. When a physician’s assistant owns 5% equity in the LLC? No.

***42 U.S.C. 1320a-7h (a) reads:

(2) Physician ownership

In addition to the requirement under paragraph (1)(A), on March 31, 2013, and on the 90th day of each calendar year beginning thereafter, any applicable manufacturer or applicable group purchasing organization shall submit to the Secretary, in such electronic form as the Secretary shall require, the following information regarding any ownership or investment interest (other than an ownership or investment interest in a publicly traded security and mutual fund, as described in section 1395nn (c) of this title) held by a physician (or an immediate family member of such physician ([immediate family member] as defined for purposes of section 1395nn (a) of this title)) in the applicable manufacturer or applicable group purchasing organization during the preceding year:…

Determining what you need to do in these situations, and what you are legally required to do, can be difficult. If you have questions about your whether your company needs to file reports with CMS.gov, please contact Business Patent Law, PLLC and we will discuss possibilities for your business and intellectual properties.

If you would like to stay up-to-date with news that impacts your intellectual property, sign up for Business Patent Law’s Monthly Mailer™ newsletter.

International Classifications for Trademarks

International Classifications for Trademarks

The Nice Treaty 

The United States is a party to the June 15, 1957 Nice Treaty and its subsequent amendments. A US Trademark or Service Mark Registration is granted in one or more of the forty-five International Classifications of the Nice Treaty.

  • There are 34 International Classifications for Trademarks
  • There are 11 International Classifications for Service Marks

For the rest of this article, Trademarks or Service Marks will be referred to as “Marks.” Under Title 15 of the United States Code, the applicant must demonstrate interstate or international use before a federal Mark Registration is granted.

In the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO), a government filing fee is required for each International Class in which an applicant seeks federal Registration. Most companies do not register their Marks in all International Classifications.

How International Classifications Influence the Registration Procedure

As a general rule, US Trademark Examiners will not allow an Application of a Mark to become a Registration if there is a “likelihood of confusion” between the Application’s Mark and another Registration or pending Application for Registration. The examination of the Applicant’s Mark may be limited to prior Registrations and Applications in the same International Class.

An Applicant can be granted a US Registration in some International Classes, but not in other International Classes.

Influence over Registration

In this hypothetical example, we will consider a brand called GoodBad. The company that produces the GoodBad product is seeking registration of its Mark. Let’s review the following possible scenarios:

If GoodBad is a Razor Brand

1.) Applicant seeks registration of the – GoodBad – Mark for razors in International Class 8 (Hand Tools & Implements) and there is a prior Registration of the – Good – Mark for razors in International Class 8.

The Trademark Examiner would probably find a “likelihood of confusion” between the – GoodBad – Application and the existing – Good – Registration and deny registration of Applicant’s – GoodBad – Mark.

2.) Applicant seeks registration of the – GoodBad – Mark for razors in International Class 8 (Hand Tools & Implements) and there is a prior Registration of the – Good – Mark for scalpels in International Class 10 (Surgical, Medical & Dental Apparatus).

The Trademark Examiner would probably not find a “likelihood of confusion” between the – GoodBad – Application and the – Good – Registration and allow Applicant’s – GoodBad – Mark to mature into a Registration.

If GoodBad is a Beverage Brand

1.)  Applicant seeks registration of the – GoodBad – Mark for teas in International Class 30 (Staple Foods) and there is a prior Registration of the – GoodBad – Mark for blouses, coats, dresses, jackets, pants and shoes in International Class 25 (Clothing).

The Trademark Examiner would probably not find a “likelihood of confusion” between the – GoodBad – Application for tea and the – GoodBad – Registration for clothing and would allow Applicant’s – GoodBad – Mark to mature into a Registration.

2.) Applicant seeks registration of the – GoodBad – Mark for coffees and teas in International Class 30 (Staple Foods) and there is a multibillion-dollar company that owns prior Registrations of the – GoodBad – Mark for:

  • Facial makeups in International Class 3 (Cosmetics & Cleaning Preparations);
  • Pharmaceutical compositions used in cosmetology and dermatology treatments in International Class 5 (Pharmaceuticals);
  • Custom-made bedroom, dining room and living room furnishings in International Class 20 (Furniture);
  • Blouses, coats, dresses, jackets, pants and shoes in International Class 25 (Clothing); and
  • Wines in International Class 33 (Wines & Spirits).

In this scenario, some Trademark Examiners would allow the Applicant’s – GoodBad – Mark for coffees and teas to be published for Opposition while other Trademark Examiners would deny registration. Should Applicant’s – GoodBad – Mark be published for Opposition, there is a high probability that the multibillion-dollar company would file either a USPTO Opposition or Cancellation Proceeding against Applicant’s – GoodBad – Mark.

If GoodBad is a Service Brand

Applicant seeks registration of the – GoodBad – Mark for the provision of continuing education services for physicians, surgeons and other medical personnel in International Class 41 (Education & Entertainment Services) and there is a prior Registration of the – GoodBad – Mark in International Class 36 (Insurance & Financial Services) owned by a multistate national bank that also specializes in the provision of accounting services for physicians and surgeons under the – GoodBad – Mark.

Although each – GoodBad – Mark is associated with a different International Class, it is highly probable the Trademark Examiner would find a “likelihood of confusion” between the – GoodBad – Application and the – GoodBad – Registration and deny registration of Applicant’s – GoodBad – Mark.

Need Help With International Classifications?

If you have questions about your company’s Marks or you seek to register a Mark, please contact Business Patent Law, PLLC and we will discuss possibilities for your business and intellectual properties.

If you would like to stay up-to-date with news that impacts your intellectual property, sign up for Business Patent Law’s Monthly Mailer™ newsletter.

Retain Control of Patent Assets

Control Patent Assets

Who controls a Patent? Inventor? Company?

35 United States Code (U.S.C.) 101 reads as follows:

“Whoever invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent therefore . . . ” and this is the starting point for determining ownership of Patent Assets.

Last month’s blog included illustrations of how a company can lose control of its Patent Assets. This month we will explore steps you can take to retain control of your company’s patents.

Control of Patent Assets

Whenever possible, companies should limit the possibility that statutes and case law will determine the ownership of Patent Assets and other Intellectual Properties. To blindly believe that because the company paid someone to do something for the company, the company owns what was created is not always effective. It’s similar to people assuming that when they die without any estate planning, State law will distribute their property according to their wishes. It seldom works that way.

How to Better Control Company Patent Assets

Use contracts with employees, agents, and independent contractors to ensure the company’s ownership of the invention’s Intellectual Property rights. Some  conditions for control of Intellectual Property rights can include:

1. As a condition of employment, the employee agrees, in writing, that the company is the owner of:

  • all inventions invented by the employee; or
  • the inventions invented by the employee at any workplace provided by the company or with devices, tools, programs, etc. supplied by the company; or
  • the inventions invented by the employee that are associated with the company’s goods or services or the company’s pipeline of goods or services.

2. As a condition of employment, the employee gives the right of first refusal (in writing) to the company as to whether the company will own the invention.

3. Prior to hiring an agent or independent contractor, the company requires that agent/independent contractor to sign a written agreement stating that:

  • all the inventions invented by the agent/independent contractor at any workplace provided by the company or with devices, tools, programs, etc. supplied by the company are owned by the company; and/or
  • all inventions invented by the agent/independent contractor associated with the company’s goods or services or the company’s pipeline of goods or services belong to the company.

Control Your Company’s Patent Assets or Someone Else Will

An assignment document is used to transfer ownership of the invention’s intellectual property rights to the company.

If the employee will not agree to assign Patent Assets to the company as a condition of employment, hire someone who will.

The same approach should be applied to agents and/or independent contractors.

If you have questions about your company’s ownership of Patent assets, please contact Business Patent Law, PLLC and we will discuss possibilities for your business and intellectual properties.

If you would like to stay up-to-date with news that impacts your intellectual property, sign up for Business Patent Law’s Monthly Mailer™ newsletter.

Patent Ownership Determination

Who Owns Patents – It Depends

Ownership – Patents

Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution reads: [The Congress shall have power] “To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.” The Constitution does not, however, address who owns the Patent or Copyright.

When an inventor invents a novel and non-obvious composition, device or method, who owns the Patent?

That depends.

Patent Rights Are Federal, But Patent Ownership Rights…

Under the United States Constitution and Title 35 of the United States Code, the granting and enforcement of Patents are exclusively matters of federal jurisdiction. However, unless owned by a federal entity, the ownership of Patents is a matter of State Law. Intellectual property ownership rights flow from Patents and who owns property rights is usually a matter determined by State Law,

Who Owns The Patent?

The following examples show how different situations impact or can impact the determination of Patent ownership:

Illustration 1

The Inventor is self-employed, invents the invention and is domiciled in State A.

The Inventor owns the entire interest in the Patent’s Intellectual Property Rights.

Illustration 2

The Inventor is an employee of Company B. The Inventor invents the invention while at work on the premises of Company B. Both Company B and Inventor are domiciled in State A.

In most jurisdictions, Company B owns the entire interest in the Patent’s Intellectual Property Rights.

Illustration 3

The Inventor is an employee of Company B and Company B is domiciled in State A. In the Inventor’s garage located in State Z, the Inventor invents the item related to the products sold by Company B.

Some courts would hold that Company B owns the Patent’s Intellectual Property Rights while other courts would hold that the Inventor owns the Patent’s Intellectual Property Rights.

Illustration 4

The Inventor is an employee of Company B that is located in State A. In the Inventor’s garage located in State Z. The Inventor invents an item not related to the anything manufactured or distributed by Company B.

Most courts would hold that the Inventor owns the Patent’s Intellectual Property Rights.

Illustration 5

The Inventor is an Independent Contractor who has worked onsite, on and off, at Company B’s plant located in State P for more than a year. Company B’s headquarters are located in State A. The Independent Contractor invented an improvement to Company B’s patented product in State J.

Some courts would hold that Company B owns the Patent’s Intellectual Property Rights. Other courts would hold that the Independent Contractor owns the Patent’s Intellectual Property Rights. Some States would not have any case law corresponding to this scenario.

Illustration 6

Company B is domiciled in State A and displays its patented product line at a trade show in State N. The chief engineer of Competitor X takes photographs/videos of Company B’s patented product line at the tradeshow. The chief engineer returns to Competitor X’s headquarters with the photos/videos. At the headquarters, located in State Q, Competitor X’s engineering staff invents several improvements to Company’s B patented product line which ultimately results in Improvement-Type Patents for Competitor X.

Courts would hold that Competitor X owns the Improvement-Type Patents – However, a federal court could also determine that Competitor X’s Improvement-Type Patents infringed Company B’s patented product line.

How to Control Ownership of Patents

What can a business do to limit its Intellectual Property from flying out in many different directions?  Next month’s blog will address some of these issues.

If you have questions about your company’s ownership of its Intellectual Properties, please contact Business Patent Law, PLLC and we will discuss possibilities for your business and Intellectual Properties.

If you would like to stay up-to-date with news that impacts your Intellectual Property, sign up for Business Patent Law’s Monthly Mailer™ newsletter.

Entrepreneurs Small Business Startup Advice

Advice for Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses

Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses

In the United States there are approximately 29,000,000 small businesses. Most of these small businesses are founded by one or more entrepreneurs. One US Small Business Administration (SBA) measure for defining a small business is: a small business has 500 or fewer employees. According to the SBA, of these 29 million small businesses, approximately 23,000,000 small businesses do not have any employees.

In the United States, approximately one-half of all jobs are supplied by small businesses, so there is a correlation between more small businesses and increased availability of jobs.

Entrepreneurs Create Small Businesses

First, the entrepreneur conceives the invention/product/service and/or business model. Then that entrepreneur will develop a method to commercialize the invention/product/service. According to the SBA, each year more small businesses “are birthed than die.” Over the years, BPL has witnessed entrepreneurs who fail to realistically approach the problem of anti-commercialization forces that result in the death of small businesses. At the same time, those entrepreneurs who do persist can create small businesses that have 100 or more employees with annual sales of 200 million dollars or more.

The owners of a $200MM small business usually have a group of trusted advisors in place, but what about startups?

Entrepreneur Advice and Startup Considerations

If you are one of the 23 million small business owners, entrepreneurs or start-ups, you should:

  • Think and rethink the invention/product/service
  • Discover competitors and discern how your invention/product/service is different – your market niche is likely narrower than you originally thought
  • Determine how to make a profit in your niche market
  • Seek and listen to the advice of other successful small business owners
  • File Intellectual Property Applications – if your market and price point(s) justify the filings
  • Patents owned by startups provide the owners a limited monopoly to prevent others from making, using, offering for sale or selling their patented invention
  • Investors appear to like small businesses with Intellectual Property portfolios
  • Prepare a business plan
  • Commence assembling your team of trusted advisors – mentors first – then accountants, attorneys, engineers, insurance professionals, investors, lenders, and scientists, etc.

Many small business owners reap large financial rewards when the small businesses are sold to a third party.

Get Help With Your Small Business Venture

Business Patent Law, PLLC would like to assist you with your small business or Intellectual Property needs.  Please contact Business Patent Law, PLLC and we will discuss possibilities for your business.

If you would like to stay up-to-date with news that impacts your Intellectual Property, sign up for Business Patent Law’s Monthly Mailer™ newsletter.