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Google attempts to patent an open-source algorithm

While many inventors and creators seek to protect their brilliance with a patent, others simply wish to make their ideas accessible to the public through open-source sharing online. Unfortunately, foregoing a patent for the greater good can still create issues of its own.

As Polish developer Jarek Duda is learning, other players may step up to claim the idea or slight variations for themselves. He invented a data compression algorithm in 2014, which major companies have since adapted to fill multiple needs.

Patent versus trade secret – which is best?

Entrepreneurs rely on intellectual property. An artist is protected by copyrights and brands are protected by trademarks. It seems only natural that inventions need to be protected by patents.

There are limits on patents, however, which distinguish them from other kinds of intellectual property. For these reasons there might be times when a trade secret works better. The complexities of this are why a close relationship with an intellectual property attorney can be very important for any business which depends on protecting its innovation.

Suggestions for how you can resolve business disputes

There is little else as unsettling as catching wind of a dispute in your organization. Often, you are immediately met with conflicting stories and are left to your own resources to sort through what you have heard and understand what is going on. In many cases, finding a solution that benefits both sides require compromise and time to articulate. At Wang Intellectual Property, we have helped many businesses in California to overcome organizational disputes. 

Chances are, the last place you want to end up is in court. In fact, if you allow the problem to become too prevalent, you could cause damage to your company's reputation which could affect your sales performance. As soon as you are made aware of a disagreement, it is imperative that you address the issue right away. According to Chron, some of your options for reaching an agreement include the following:

  • Mediation: This resource provides the disagreeing parties with the option of meeting with a third-party to discuss their differences in a controlled environment. You and other organizational leaders may be present to help identify root problems and discuss viable solutions. 
  • Management agreements: Before disputes ever arise, you can make a proactive decision to articulate a detailed management agreement. This tool is an excellent way to clarify important aspects of business operation before they become a problem when people begin to interpret them on a personal level. 
  • Negotiation: As the dust settles and emotions have tapered a little, you can work with both parties to negotiate a deal. This will require flexibility and humility of both parties but can open the door to productive and successful communication. 

Breaches of Contract

Centuries ago, when literacy was still a fledgling privilege, parties in business often verbalized their contracts. Their word was as good as gold, as some might say. In a modern world, the most successful California executives will say, "Get it in writing." Every business owner knows a contract has to be in writing, and all involved parties have to sign it. 

What happens, then, when executives do everything right? They fill in the details, proof them painstakingly and take the finalized document to the committee for signing. Everyone leaves the room feeling a sense of accomplishment and purpose. Together, they know they will reach the goals the partnership is aiming for. 

What constitutes fair use of copyrighted material?

If you hold a copyright on a book, article, painting, musical composition, software program, etc. that you created in California, you own this creation. It is your intellectual property and others cannot copy, use or sell it without your permission. However, others have the right to fair use of your property without your permission.

As Baylor University explains, fair use means that others can use limited amounts of, or limited excerpts from, your copyrighted material without your permission under very limited circumstances. For instance, all of the following are examples of fair usage:

  • News reporting
  • Criticism
  • Parody
  • Research
  • Scholarship
  • Teaching

Protecting intellectual property

Most California entrepreneurs understand the importance of creative ownership; after all, a work of one's one is something to be proud of. When the privacy or protection of that creation becomes jeopardized, an unlawful act may have taken place. The following information delves into the topic of protecting one's intellectual property in a way that can promote growth within a company for years to come.

According to the advice of some experts, which was showcased in a Forbes article on intellectual property, time can be of the essence. Most would agree that protecting intellectual property early on in the business plan can ensure protection. Whether it is by trademark, patent, trade secret or copyright, Forbes stresses that each option can require different procedures. California business owners may need to contact the office of the California Secretary of State in order to conduct an online trademark search. Despite the impact that early planning can make on the success of a business, many entrepreneurs are hesitant to protect intellectual property. Some do not anticipate any threats to the creation; others turn to cheaper methods of protecting property, which often prove insufficient.  

Design is a factor in recent patent litigation

California residents may not consider how the design of a product is connected to the patent. An ongoing lawsuit between technology companies demonstrates why it is important to understand which aspects a product are covered by a patent.

Samsung and Apple are involved in a lawsuit concerning the design of cellphones. The case has been in progress since 2011. Although the case reached the Supreme Court in 2016, the issue has not yet been resolved, and the case is in progress at a lower California court. Representatives of Apple argue that three Samsung cellphones infringed on the company's patent and they seek damages from Samsung. The alleged patent infringement covers not technological but design aspects that Apple says are integral to the appearance of the iPhone. These design aspects are the layout of icons on the user interface and the round corners on the front of the iPhone. Apple representatives say that any damages awarded to the company should be set by the value of the entire cellphone.

The importance of registering your copyright

At Wang IP Law Group, P.C., in California, we know how proud you are of your artistic creations, be they paintings, books, musical compositions, photographs, architectural drawings, computer programs or other expressions of your creative genius. We also understand your desire to maintain complete control over these creations. They are, after all, your intellectual property, and you have every right to prevent others from using, copying or distributing them without your permission.

You may already know that once you put your creation(s) into final, tangible form, they automatically become copyrighted and you can affix the copyright symbol to them. What you may not know, however, is that this automatic copyright is insufficient to fully protect you.

Detailing trademark dilution

Your company has no doubt expended a good deal of time, energy and resources in developing your trademark. The value of that mark comes from its exclusivity. So what happens when a competitor in your space introduces something similar that, while distinct enough to not qualify as trademark infringement, could certainly cause confusion amongst consumers as to which was truly your brand? Many of the clients that we here at the Wang IP Law Group PC have worked with in the past have come to us facing this same conundrum. Fortunately, we have typically been able to offer good news: There is legal recourse available in such situations. 

Trademark dilution refers to the unauthorized use of material similar to famous marks that effects the famous mark by association. According to the Cornell University Law School, factors that go into determining whether your mark is considered famous include the extent of time you have been using it, the geographic market your mark extends to, and the sales volumes it has helped generate. The most common form of trademark dilution is dilution by blurring (impairment due to confusion between similar trademarks). To prove that a competitor is guilty of this, you must prove the following: 

  • That its mark is actually similar to yours
  • The distinctiveness of your own mark
  • The extent to which you are engaged in exclusive use of the mark
  • How famous your mark truly is
  • That your competitor intentionally tried to create an association with your mark
  • That consumers did in fact make that association

Prior art and patents

Obtaining a patent is about much more than inventing something new. It is important that you prove it is new. That means you have to compare it to everything that is known in the world already.

The term is "prior art," and it describes the body of everything that is known in the area. It can be daunting, but there are ways to limit your search to prove your idea is new.

Contact Us To Get Started

Contact Us To Get Started

Contact our office to schedule a free, initial consultation by dialing 888-827-8880 or by completing our brief, online questionnaire. Based in Los Angeles, our firm represents clients throughout California and in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan and Israel.

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