Overview

 

What’s Good For Automobiles and Aircraft and Is Good for the World 

The impact of the automotive and aerospace industries on the world economy has long supported the premise that what's good for automobiles and aircraft is good for the world. Indeed, many manufacturing and service industries exist primarily to support the development and supply of the world's two favorite modes of transportation.  Competition in the automotive and aerospace industries is intense and often even minor improvements over past products often provide a manufacturer a significant competitive edge.  Therefore, to succeed and thrive in field of transportation, it is imperative for companies to protect their technology.  

 

Intellectual Property Overview  

Intellectual property is any innovation, commercial or artistic, or any unique name, symbol, logo or design used commercially.  Often known as IP, intellectual property allows people to own their creativity and innovation in the same way that they can own physical property.

 

Trademarks Overview

A registration has a 10-year term and can be renewed for additional 10-year terms if you prove the mark is still in use for all the goods and/or services stated.  Additionally, between the fifth and sixth anniversary of a mark’s registration, you must file evidence with the PTO showing that you are still using your mark.  If you do not, your registration will be canceled.

Trademarks that have been “federally registered” with the USPTO may use the R-in-a-circle (®) symbol. Trademarks and service marks that have been filed and are awaiting registration from the USPTO may use the TM (TM) and SM (SM) symbols respectively.

 

Copyright Overview

There are three (3) key reasons why you should get a copyright registration:  to establish a public record; to be able to file an infringement lawsuit in federal court; and to simplify enforcing your copyright and obtaining higher damages.

 

Patent Overview

Simply put, a patent is a right to exclude others from doing what you invented. There are, however, a number different types of patents.  There are U.S. patents, and there are foreign patents.  U.S. patents are rights granted by the U.S. government and exclude only actions within the United States.  Likewise, patents issued by a foreign government may be enforced only in that foreign country.

Also, in the United States, there are utility patents, and there are design patents.  When most people think of a patent, typical it is a utility patent that first comes to mind.  Utility patents protect the idea or function of an invention.  In contrast, design patents protect the overall appearance of an invention. Properly written, a utility patent application attempts to describe and claim for the inventor his or her invention as broadly as possible.  Similarly, properly written, a design patent attempts to claim the invented design as broadly as possible. What is the difference between a utility patent and a design patent?

A utility patent covers the functional aspects of an invention. A utility patent expires 20 years from the filing date. In 2006, it took approximately 30 months from filing until an examiner came to a decision. The length of time varies depending on the field and complexity of the patent. Examples of things that can be covered by a utility patent are a newly created fabric or a new clasp for a purse.

A design patent covers the ornamental aspects of an invention. They generally issue 8-20 months after filing and are protected for 14 years from the filing date. Design patents often cover long-term fashion items such as shoes, jewelry, and accessories.

 

Trade Secret Overview

Both trade secrets and patents are forms of IP that can be used to protect innovation.  Although the overall subject matter that can be protected by trade secrets is broader than that which can be protected by patents. Trade secret protection is available for both technical information and information that does not relate to technical innovations. Non-technical information for which trade secret protection can exist includes: business and marketing plans and customer lists. Patent protection is generally available for technical innovations, including a new and useful process, machine, manufacture or composition of matter. Software and software-implemented business methods have the potential of being protected by both patents and trade secrets.

Another significant difference is that patent protection requires the protected information become available to the public (through the publication of the patent application and/or patent), However, because patents and patent applications are made public, a third party is barred from duplicating and using the invention until the term of the patent is expired.   Additionally, unlike trade secrets, patents can be enforced against someone who independently develops or "reverse engineers" an invention.

A trade secret has its own advantages. One significant advantage is that the term of protection for a trade secret has the potential to last forever - as long as the invention is kept a secret - whereas patents are only protected for a limited number of years (20 years from filing). Also, trade secrets can be less expensive to protect and to enforce.

In sum, the choice between patent protection and trade secret protection requires careful consideration of several factors. In particular, it is important to consider the nature of the subject matter being protected. Questions relevant to this decision include: Can it be independently developed? Can it be reverse engineered? Can it be maintained as a secret?  How long will the subject matter have market value? Does the market value support investment in patent protection/enforcement?