California creativity is an intellectual property risk

The talent and creativity of California entrepreneurs supply the nation’s demand for entertainment, technology and thousands of others products and services. The prevalence of originality in Los Angeles is an advantage and a worry. When fresh ideas are profitable, someone may try to steal them.

Intellectual property laws help protect the unique ways products and services are identified by consumers. The “swoosh” symbol tells a sneaker buyer they’re getting a shoe made by Nike. Legal restrictions prevent other shoe manufacturers from trying to pass off products with the same or similar trademark.

Symbols are a single identifier. Trademarks and service marks may also include a recognizable brand name or identifying word like “Twitter.” Privacy and publicity rights and trade dress — the appearance, packaging and advertising of a product — are also protected by laws as well as patents and copyrights.

Legal advisers suggest that obtaining a patent and protecting it are equally vital. A patent approval may take years to obtain. During that time, inventors invest thousands of dollars or more in legal costs. The moment a patent is secured, defending it becomes a priority.

Some patent owners are purposely lax about protecting intellectual property until a legal dispute occurs. Patent trolls are known for accumulating but not defending patents unless a settlement or damages can be gained.

Patent defense becomes complex when disagreements crop up over how one-of-a-kind a product or service is. For example, an improvement to a patented process may not make a new process distinct. Judges and juries frequently decide how different one patent is from another by comparing similar and dissimilar features.

While some trademark, patent and copyright disputes end up in criminal court, most complaints are resolved through civil litigation. Effective protection is a balancing act between safeguarding assets and avoiding infringement upon the intellectual property rights of others.

Source:, “Protecting bright ideas: How to safeguard your company’s intellectual property” Richard N. Velotta, Jul. 08, 2013