The Law and Contracts in Lexington Kentucky

Questions About Contracts

Contracts Can Seem Contradictory

It’s pretty easy to understand why contracts are often confusing. After all, contracts can include clauses that allow opposing sides to make contrary assertions about the meaning of one or more of the clauses in the contract.

When a contract comes under fire, and the amount in controversy increases, so do opposing counsels’ arguments about such things as the meanings of “a,” “the” and the placement of colons, commas, semicolons and other punctuation.

Politicians and lawmakers (most of whom are lawyers) have argued over the meaning of the word “is.” In a civil trial, both sides have plausible arguments, and the jury decides who is more believable.

With this real-world reality in mind, most companies strive to provide their sales force with the best “boiler plate” contracts. However, those can pose their own challenges.

Boiler Plate Contracts

Although, our company’s “Boiler Plate” contracts have served us well – we now have a new situation…

The New Situation

Our Company’s Region 1 representative executed a contract with a new Lexington, Kentucky company for 1 MM Gizmos. We ordered 1 MM Gizmos from our supplier F.O.B. origin. The new company is refusing to pay an upfront deposit as required by our “boiler plate” contract. In addition, this new company indicated it considered all “boiler plate” contracts “null and void.”

We have an agreement signed by the new company and our Region 1 representative. We gave the Region 1 representative the authority to execute the “boiler plate” contracts for our company. Our attorneys inform us the agreement is “solid.” Our Region 1 representative tells us that he and the other signatory were in the signatory’s office on the premises of the new customer when they both signed the contract.

Is the Contract Enforceable?

For there to be a valid contract, each signatory must have the authority to bind their respective companies to the agreement. Whether the agent of a company has the authority to bind the company is factually dependent.

Corporations

  • As a general rule, the President, CEO or COO has the designated explicit authority to bind the corporation to a contract. If the customer’s signatory was a President, CEO or COO, then the contract is likely valid.
  • Agents such as the CFO and Vice Presidents can be granted actual authority to bind the corporation to a contract. If the customer’s signatory was one of these agents, the contract is likely valid.
  • Agents such as the chief of marketing or chief of engineering may have either actual authority or implicit authority to bind the corporation to a contract. If the customer’s signatory did not have actual authority, but a pattern of behaviors can prove that the customer’s agent had a history of executing contracts for the customer, the contract would likely be held valid at trial.
  • A midlevel marking manager would not likely have explicit or implicit authority to bind the corporation to a contract and the contract with the customer would be invalid.

Limited Liability Companies, Professional Limited Liability Companies, Limited Liability Partnerships

  • As a general rule, the designated Manager or Managing Member has the explicit authority to bind the limited liability company to a contract. If the customer’s signatory was the Manager or Managing Member, then the contract is likely valid.
  • Agents can be granted actual authority to bind the limited liability company to a contract. If the customer’s signatory was one of these designated agents, the contract is likely valid.
  • It is possible to prove an agent’s implicit pattern of behaviors that the customer’s signatory had a history of executing contracts for the customer. With such proof, the contract would likely be held valid at trial.

General Partnerships

  • General partners are jointly and severally liable. Each general partner can bind the partnership to a contract.
  • Agents can be granted actual authority to bind the general partnership to a contract. If the customer’s signatory was one of these designated agents, the contract is likely valid.

Do you have questions about contracts? We can help. Business Patent Law, PLLC provides intellectual property and business counsel for businesses and companies.

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.

Options when your design patent application is rejected

Design Patent Application Rejection: Now What?

Design Patent Applications have a single claim. Design Patents are for ornamentation. Utility Patent Applications generally have more than a single claim that concern the invention’s structure, function or both.

The Situation

Our company received an Office Action for our Lexington branch’s Design Patent Application A from the USPTO. The Examiner argued that the claim of our Lexington Design Patent Application was obvious in view of a Louisville competitor’s Design Patent B. The Examiner rejected our claim.

We think the Examiner is in error. How can we argue against the Examiner’s rejection of our claim?

The Statutory Law

35 United States Code (U.S.C.) Section 103 reads:

A patent for a claimed invention may not be obtained, notwithstanding that the claimed invention is not identically disclosed as set forth in section 102, if the differences between the claimed invention and the prior art are such that the claimed invention as a whole would have been obvious before the effective filing date of the claimed invention to a person having ordinary skill in the art to which the claimed invention pertains. Patentability shall not be negated by the manner in which the invention was made.

Challenging Design Patent Rejections

Possible avenues of argument to rebut a rejection for a Design Patent Application include:

1.) Design Patent B is not analogous art

With respect to non-analogous art, In re Glavas, 230 F.2d 447, 450 109 USPQ 50, 52 (CCPA 1956) provides guidance.  The Glavas court indicated:

The question in design cases is not whether the references sought to be combined are in analogous arts in the mechanical sense, but whether they are so related that the appearance of certain ornamental features in one would suggest the application of those features to the other.

Thus, if the problem is merely one of giving an attractive appearance to a surface, it is immaterial whether the surface in question is that of wall paper, an oven door, or a piece of crockery. . . .

On the other hand, when the proposed combination of references involves material modifications of the basic form of one article in view of another, the nature of the article involved is a definite factor in determining whether the proposed change involves [patentable] invention.

Therefore, where the differences between the claimed design and the prior art are limited to the application of ornamentation to the surface of an article, any prior art reference which discloses substantially the same surface ornamentation would be considered analogous art. Where the differences are in the shape or form of the article, the nature of the articles involved must also be considered.

2.) The Examiner failed to consider the design as a whole

Among other things, the USPTO Manual of Patent of Examining Procedure indicates that before Design Patent A can be obvious, it must be compared with something in existence. Thus it can be argued that the Examiner failed to make a prima facie case of obviousness if he/she failed to consider the design as a whole.

As a whole, a design must be compared with something in existence, and not something brought into existence by selecting and combining features from prior art references. See In re Jennings, 182 F.2d 207, 86 USPQ 68 (CCPA 1950). The “something in existence” referred to in Jennings has been defined as “…a reference… the design characteristics of which are basically the same as the claimed design….” See In re Rosen, 673 F.2d 388, 391, 213 USPQ 347, 350 (CCPA 1982) (the primary reference did “…not give the same visual impression…” as the design claimed but had a “…different overall appearance and aesthetic appeal…”.) Hence, it is clear that “design characteristics” means overall visual appearance. This definition of “design characteristics” is reinforced in the decision of In re Harvey, 12 F.3d 1061, 1063, 29 USPQ2d 1206, 1208 (Fed. Cir. 1993), and is supported by the earlier decisions of In re Yardley, 493 F.2d 1389, 181 USPQ 331, 334 (CCPA 1974) and In re Leslie, 547 F.2d 116, 192 USPQ 427, 431 (CCPA 1977). Specifically, in the Yardley decision, it was stated that “[t]he basic consideration in determining the patentability of designs over prior art is similarity of appearance.” 493 F.2d at 1392-93, 181 USPQ at 334. Therefore, in order to support a holding of obviousness, a primary reference must be more than a design concept; it must have an appearance substantially the same as the claimed design. See In re Harvey, 12 F.3d 1061, 29 USPQ2d 1206 (Fed. Cir. 1993). Absent such a reference, no holding of obviousness under 35 U.S.C. 103 can be made, whether based on a single reference alone or in view of modifications suggested by secondary prior art.

When a claim is rejected under 35 U.S.C. 103 as being unpatentable over prior art, features of the design which are functional and/or hidden during end use may not be relied upon to support patentability. “[A] design claim to be patentable must also be ornamental; and functional features or forms cannot be relied upon to support its patentability.”

3.) Design Patent B taught in a divergent direction from Design Patent Application A

What does it mean to be “taught away” or “taught in a divergent direction” in relation to a patent application?

A prima facie case of obviousness can be rebutted if the applicant…can show that the art in any material respect ‘taught away’ from the claimed invention…A reference may be said to teach away when a person of ordinary skill, upon reading the reference…would be led in a direction divergent from the path that was taken by the applicant.

— In re Haruna, 249 F.3d 1327, 58USPQ2d 1517 (Fed. Cir. 2001)

As you can see, patent law can be confusing. If you need help to secure yours, call us. Business Patent Law, PLLC assists companies and individuals with the procurement and management of their Intellectual Property portfolios.

If you or your enterprise need legal assistance procuring/managing/enforcing your Patent Applications, Patents, Copyrights or Trademarks/Service Marks, please contact Business Patent Law, PLLC. We provide intellectual property and business counsel for individuals and businesses.

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.

Lexington Kentucky Trademark Bananas

Lexington Trademarks/Service Marks

Will the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) grant a federal Trademark/Service Mark Registration for the term “Lexington?” It depends on the goods or services with which the Trademark or Service Mark are associated.

The Statutory Law

15 United States Code (U.S.C.) Section 1052, in part, reads:

No trademark by which the goods of the applicant may be distinguished from the goods of others shall be refused registration on the principal register on account of its nature unless it—

(e) Consists of a mark which, (1) when used on or in connection with the goods of the applicant is merely descriptive or deceptively misdescriptive of them, (2) when used on or in connection with the goods of the applicant is primarily geographically descriptive of them, except as indications of regional origin may be registrable under section 1054 of this title, (3) when used on or in connection with the goods of the applicant is primarily geographically deceptively misdescriptive of them, (4) is primarily merely a surname, or (5) comprises any matter that, as a whole, is functional.

When certain facts are in evidence, under 15 U.S.C. Section 1052(e), the Trademark Examiner can reject the Applicant’s Application as “primarily geographically descriptive.”

The USPTO Examiner’s Geographically Descriptive Marks – Test

The Examiner is to consider:

  • (1) the primary significance of the mark is a generally known geographic location
  • (2) the goods or services originate in the place identified in the mark; and
  • (3) purchasers would be likely to believe that the goods or services originate in the geographic place identified in the mark. Note: If the mark is remote or obscure, the public is unlikely to make a goods/place or services/place association.

Illustration 1 – Refusal

The Owner of a Lexington, Kentucky restaurant filed an Application for Registration in the USPTO for “The Lexington” for restaurant services

Pursuant to the USPTO test, the Examiner would argue that “The Lexington” for restaurant services is “primarily geographically descriptive” and refuse registration of the Service Mark.

Illustration 2 – Approval

The Owner of a Lexington, Kentucky banana store filed an Application for Registration in the USPTO for “Lexington” for bananas

Pursuant to the USPTO test and the case law, the name of a geographic location that has no significant relation to commercial activities or the production of the relevant goods or services, such as Lexington for bananas, is treated as an arbitrary mark because it is unlikely that consumers would believe that the mark identifies the place from which the goods originate.  The Examiner would likely conclude that the Trademark “Lexington” for bananas sold by the Lexington banana store should be granted.

Illustration 3 – Refusal

The Owner of a Lexington, Kentucky saddlery shop filed an Application for Registration in the USPTO for “Lexington” for saddles, bridles, and other equipment for horses

Pursuant to the USPTO test, the Examiner would argue that “Lexington” for saddles, bridles, and other equipment for horses is “primarily geographically descriptive” and refuse registration of the Trademark because Lexington, Kentucky is world renown for thoroughbred horses.

Conclusion

For Applicants, the federal registration process can be somewhat confusing.  By way of illustration, when a potentially “geographically descriptive” mark overcomes the 15 U.S.C. Section 1052(e) bar to registration, the applicant must still overcome the 15 U.S.C. § 1052 Sec. 2 (d) “likelihood of confusion” bar and other 15 U.S.C. § 1052 bars to registration.

Business Patent Law, PLLC assists companies and individuals with the procurement and management of their Intellectual Property portfolios.

If your enterprise needs legal assistance procuring/managing/enforcing your Patent Applications, Patents, Copyrights or Trademarks/Service Marks, please contact Business Patent Law, PLLC.

Business Patent Law, PLLC provides intellectual property and business counsel for businesses and companies.

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.