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Intellectual Property: Trademark/Trade Secrets Law

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Transactional
Intellectual Property
Trademark/Trade Secrets Law

Trademark: A trademark is a word or symbol used by a company to identify the origin or provider of a product or service (like the Nike swoosh or the logo on a designer purse). Trademark attorneys help clients protect the marks they use to distinguish their products and services from those of other providers. There are several affirmative steps that can be taken to protect trademarks. One important way is to “register” the mark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO).

Trademark attorneys work with clients on choosing a mark, clearing it for use, and registering it with the PTO, a process sometimes called trademark “prosecution.” They also watch the marketplace for unauthorized use of the trademark, litigate against potential infringers, and defend clients who are accused of infringement. And, like other IP lawyers, [...]

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Trademark: A trademark is a word or symbol used by a company to identify the origin or provider of a product or service (like the Nike swoosh or the logo on a designer purse). Trademark attorneys help clients protect the marks they use to distinguish their products and services from those of other providers. There are several affirmative steps that can be taken to protect trademarks. One important way is to “register” the mark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO).

Trademark attorneys work with clients on choosing a mark, clearing it for use, and registering it with the PTO, a process sometimes called trademark “prosecution.” They also watch the marketplace for unauthorized use of the trademark, litigate against potential infringers, and defend clients who are accused of infringement. And, like other IP lawyers, they assist their clients with transactions. For example, trademark lawyers negotiate and draft licenses for use of a particular mark, such as the association of a sports arena or stadium with a particular company.

Trademark attorneys counsel clients in a variety of industries. Their clients tend to be businesses or individuals dealing with the consumer market, like the retail, media, entertainment and sports industries. With the growth of the Internet and the electronics industries, their clients also include companies in high tech fields.

Trade Secrets: A trade secret is a secret formula, design, process, or compilation of data with economic value. Part of its value stems from the fact that its owner can obtain an economic advantage over others because the information is not widely known or easily discovered. Well-known examples include the Coca-Cola formula and the original recipe for Kentucky Fried Chicken. Customer lists and computer programming code can also be protected as trade secrets. Computer code is protected by copyright and sometimes by patent, but it is frequently protected as a trade secret as well. In order to preserve the benefit of “trade secret” protection (called “confidential information” in some jurisdictions), the owner must take steps to maintain the secrecy of that information. One of the differences between trade secrets, on the one hand, and patents and trademarks, on the other, is the obligation of the owner to take reasonable steps to avoid disclosure. A patent has a guaranteed period of protection in exchange for disclosing the information to the public. A trade secret is protected only when the secret is not disclosed.

When there is a business reason for disclosure of confidential information to outsiders, the owner of the information seeks to protect its trade secrets by contract, such as a nondisclosure agreement or by other restrictive provisions in an agreement between the parties. Allegations about the theft of a company’s trade secrets often arise when key employees who have had access to confidential information, such as significant technical or financial information, leave a company to form their own company or go to work for a competitor.

Attorneys working with trade secret matters may litigate trade secret cases and they may also help clients avoid litigation. For example, attorneys assist clients in developing procedures to protect their proprietary information in the first instance, such as through the use of technological security measures and legal measures like nondisclosure or non-compete agreements. Attorneys specializing in litigation may represent clients on either side of a trade secret dispute, threatening court action when a departing employee appears to have departed with proprietary information, or defending the new employer against the charge that it has improperly acquired information that was the intellectual property of another.

 
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