Intellectual Property Attorney in Houston, Texas
Intellection Property Lawyers Help Protect Your Creative Assets in Houston
Intellectual property is created by the human mind. The creativity element distinguishes it from personal, intangible, or real property. Unlike protecting other assets, when handling intellectual property, attorneys must consider how to preserve the value of concepts, designs, ideas, and innovations, rather than merely tangible items. The Law Office of C. William Smalling, PC safeguards and maintains the value of books, music, art, inventions, slogans, branding, and business secrets through copyrights and trademarks.
Registering Your Copyright in Texas
You have an exclusive right to the work you produce when you put it into a tangible form, such as a book, photograph, musical composition, computer program, or movie. Your work automatically gains federal copyright protection upon production. William Smalling helps you register your work with the U.S. Copyright Office to protect it from unauthorized use, reproduction, or distribution.
A copyright is a type of protection provided by federal law to authors of intellectual works, such as literary works, drama, music, or artistic works. Intellectual works can also include choreography, sculptures, movies, sound recordings, and architectural designs. Some things that can’t be copyrighted are works that aren’t in a tangible fixed form (such as performances that aren’t recorded or written), slogans, titles, names, ideas, procedures, discoveries, and works that consist only of common property (such as standard calendars).
The holder of a copyright on a book, painting, play, song, or other work of art is the only one who can reproduce the work, perform the work publicly, and distribute or display the work. Unauthorized use of any work protected by copyright is a violation of federal law.
In order to obtain a copyright, no action with the federal Copyright Office is needed. A copyright is automatically secured when the work is created. When a work is published, the author may choose to place a notice of copyright on the work to notify the public that the work is copyrighted. The notice varies among art forms, however, it usually includes the symbol ©, the year of publication of the work, and the name of the owner of the work.
Many people also wish to register their copyrights with the Copyright Office. Although registration is not required in order to be protected by a copyright, registration has several advantages. Most importantly, registration establishes a public record of the copyright. Registration is necessary before a copyright infringement suit can be filed. If a copyright is registered and it is then infringed, statutory damages and attorney’s fees are available. Otherwise, if the copyright is not registered, only an award of actual damages and profits is allowed. Registration also allows the copyright owner to record the copyright with the U.S. Customs Service, which will help protect against the importation of infringing copies.
In order to register a copyright, some basic information is needed. When was the work created? When was the work originally published? Is this an original work or a derivative work? Was the work created for hire (i.e., done by an employee)? Is the work entirely original? When was the work completed?
Our knowledgeable copyright attorneys can assist an author or creator of a work in registering a copyright. Once the copyright has been obtained, we will work with the owner to ensure the copyright is properly retained and enforced. If someone other than the owner of that copyright reproduces the copyrighted work, we will assist the author with copyright litigation, when appropriate. Our attorneys can also help with any legal issues that arise under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which has adapted copyright law to keep pace with the digital world. The DMCA protects service providers from copyright liability that may arise from the infringement by their users.
Preserving Your Business Image through Trademark
Trademark protects your commercial branding, logo, picture, or design from use by others. Even use of a confusingly similar look, name, or logo can constitute trademark infringement. Our attorneys file your trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. If infringement occurs, Mr. Smalling seeks an injunction to stop further use and sue the infringer for damages.
Trademarks are words, phrases, symbols, or designs that identify the source of goods of one party from those of other parties. A service mark is the same as a trademark, except that service marks identify and distinguish the source of a service rather than goods.
A trademark can be established simply by using the mark in commerce without registering it with the Principal Register, which is maintained by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. However, registration of a trademark provides advantages to the owner. Registration can serve as public notice of the ownership of the mark. If you want to sue someone for using the mark without permission, it must be registered. Registration creates a legal presumption that you are the owner of the trademark and have the exclusive right to use the mark. A trademark must be registered in order for U.S. Customs to prevent the importation of foreign goods that are using the mark illegally. In order to use the federal registration symbol ®, the trademark must be registered. However, if you do not register the trademark, you can use “TM” or “SM” to alert the public that you own the trademark or service mark.
In order to register a trademark or service mark, an application must be filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Once you file the application, the USPTO will conduct a search through registered trademarks and will not register your mark if there is another mark that is similar to yours for related goods or services. It’s advisable to hire a patent attorney who can help you with the legal requirements of registering a trademark. Our law firm can help you prepare the application and assist you in the search through millions of registered trademarks to see if there could be a potential problem.
It usually takes three months for an application to get assigned to an examining attorney with the USPTO, and then the examining attorney will refuse or accept registration. There are many reasons a registration may be denied. There may be other marks already registered that may cause confusion with your mark because of their similarity and the commercial relationships between the goods and services the marks represent. The mark may also not be registered if it is a description of the goods or services if it’s a geographic term, or the last name.
After the mark is approved by the examining attorney, it will be published online. The public then has 30 days to oppose registration. If there is no opposition, the USPTO will send a registration certificate about 12 weeks later.
Safeguarding Your Business’ Trade Secrets
A formula, recipe, method, process, or plan distinctive to your business constitutes trade secrets. Trade secrets are intrinsic to the success of your company and give you the competitive edge. When these unique functions are revealed, your company’s value is compromised. The Law Office of C. William Smalling, PC protects your business through nondisclosure agreements and employment protocol. If an employee or outside party discloses protected information, we can minimize damage to your company and pursue your legal remedies.
Trade secrets are formulas, designs, practices, processes, or patterns that are not widely known or cannot be reasonably ascertained. Trade secrets usually consist of information that confers some type of monetary benefit on the holder of the trade secret. Efforts are made to keep trade secrets private. Some examples of trade secrets are the formula of Coca-Cola and designs for manufacturing radio parts.
Trade secrets can usually be protected without registration or other formalities. However, in order to be protected, the information must be secret, it must have commercial value, and the holder of the information must have taken steps to keep it private. There are some steps you can take to protect your trade secret. If your business has a trade secret, you should consider whether the secret can actually be patented. If it can be, you should consult with an attorney on whether it could be better protected by a patent.
You should make sure that only a few people know about the secret and that they know it’s confidential. Use confidentiality agreements with both your employees and your business partners. In general, trade secrets are protected under state laws rather than federal laws. Most states have enacted the Uniform Trade Secrets Act, which protects trade secrets that have not been disclosed.
There are a few ways companies will try to discover the trade secrets of their competitors. They may use reverse engineering, which is to discover how something operates by analyzing its structure and functions. Reverse engineering, which generally entails taking something apart so its inner workings can be analyzed, is legal.
Another way businesses try to discover trade secrets is through industrial espionage. Industrial espionage can include breaking into a company’s operations, hacking into the computers of a competitor, setting up wiretaps or planting hidden bugs, or other illegal means of obtaining a competitor’s secrets. The Economic Espionage Act makes it illegal to steal trade secrets to benefit foreign countries. The Economic Espionage Act also makes it illegal to steal trade secrets for commercial or economic purposes.
If a trade secret is stolen, the thief may be held liable for the taking. The company whose trade secrets were stolen could obtain an injunction ordering the thief to stop using the trade secret. The company could also get an award of damages for all profits the thief made by using the trade secret.
If your business uses trade secrets, you should contact our knowledgeable attorneys who can help you protect that trade secret. In some instances, the trade secret should be patented. You should make good use of confidentiality agreements, as well as ensuring your security procedures are adequate.
Intellectual Property Representation in Houston, Texas
For help with your intellectual property matters, contact our resident intellectual property lawyer in Houston, Texas Mr. Smalling to arrange a consultation. Give us a call or fill out our contact form.