A federal judge in Chicago recently gave a stinging reminder to businesses that they need to protect their trade secrets. Judge John R. Thorp issued a thorough opinion on Abrasic 90 Inc., d/b/a CGW Camel Grinding Wheels, USA v. Weldcote Metals, Inc., Joseph O’Mera and Colleen Cervencik, even giving the pointers to the losing side about why they lost.
Trade secrets can be in the form of a formula, device, process or information that is used by a business to earn income or generate value. The Uniform Trade Secrets Act defines trade secrets as pieces of information that have value because they are not well known and can be reasonably maintained as a secret. It is nearly always in the best interests of a business to protect trade secrets, but it is easier said than done. Here are some helpful tips to start the conversation about protecting a business’s trade secrets:
The Chinese government and its businesses are famously comfortable with breaking the laws involving intellectual property. Examples include cheap imitations of name brand clothing, DVDs of movies still in the theaters or stealing technological innovations used when it manufactures products for U.S. tech companies.
Many remember the glass-topped Mold-A-Rama vending machines at zoos, arcades and museums. Young customers can drop coins into the slot and watch the plastic mold injection machine create dolphins, dinosaurs or tractor figurines in under a minute. Hundreds of machines were built in the 1960s under the ownership of the Aramark, which eventually sold the company in 1971.
The Supreme Court last week announced that it would examine whether the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) could reject trademark applications based on the nature of the trademarked subject matter and language. The USPTO currently has the 113-year-old statutory provision in the Lanham Act, which forbids scandalous, immoral, vulgar or deceptive trademarks.
The circumstances of each trademark dispute are going to be different. According to some, it is just as important to focus on how and when to enforce that trademark protection as it is to get it in the first place. The trick is to have a plan about how to handle defense against infringers.
UGG boots have been a part of the fashion landscape for longer than a decade. It has had to protect itself from infringement several times over the years, most notably against Romeo and Juliet's (R&J) Bearclaw. UGG’s parent company Decker Outdoor Corporation (DOC) has used a series of design patents to protect its popular moccasin-like winter boot with sheepskin exterior and wool liners. The previous case was settled, but the two companies went back to court recently because of R&J’s new line of boots.
Among the things it can be very important for small businesses to avoid is running afoul of copyright laws. Such violations could land a company in legal hot water.
Patents provide legal protection against those who wish to steal ideas or products. Many believe that the value of a product is directly tied to the willingness to aggressively protect their products and services against infringement.
Licensing your intellectual property can be a huge money-maker—if it is done correctly. The process is not as simple as many entrepreneurs anticipate. Even the most innovative product or process can flop if it is not licensed correctly. The world of intellectual property and licensing is wide and complex, and making a misstep could be unthinkably costly.