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You've got an idea and you want to patent it -- great! One of your first steps will be to hire a patent lawyer. Luckily for you, the hub of Houston has a variety of reliable options. But before you jump headlong into patenting your invention, consider these factors:

Patent Lawyers: What Do They Do?
A patent lawyer exists to help you with the ins and outs of patenting your invention. Securing a patent gives you the governmental protection that grants your invention as a property right. Patent law is a very specialized field, but one patent attorney doesn't do everything: be sure to look at patent lawyers in Houston that specialize in securing patents for your field. You need someone with experience.

Types of Patents
Patent lawyers in Houston should know which type of patent you need, but it's important for you to know the options that are out there. According to the USPTO, there are three types of patents you can choose: utility patents, design patents, and plant patents. Knowing these patents will enable you to choose the best patent protection for your idea or invention.

Expiration Dates
Keep in mind that your design patent will expire 14 years after you secure its rights. Utility and plants patents expire 20 years after. Unfortunately, patents cannot be renewed, but they can be extended under certain special circumstances.

What Makes a Good Patent Lawyer
As stated above, make sure that your patent lawyer specializes in your field. In a perfect world, your patent lawyer will know how to articulate the intricacies of claiming a patent, but it is unlikely that a patent lawyer in Houston will be able to do everything. Finding a patent lawyer who is able to understand your design or invention is key in getting the right coverage to protect your ideas.

How Do I Find More Information?
Your local library likely has access to the different types of patents and patent law. Don't be afraid to perform a search on the internet to find out more information or set up a consultation with a patent lawyer in Houston if you'd rather speak to someone in person.

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When you've taken the trouble to protect your invention or discovery with a U.S. patent, you'll understandably want to rest assured that no one can infringe upon your rights and steal your unique idea. But while patent protection issued through the USPTO will keep your original product safe here in America, do those protections extend to foreign countries?

Can U.S. Patents Offer International Protection?
As nice as it might be to obtain automatic patent protection worldwide, the reality is that obtaining a U.S. patent will not offer you intellectual property protection outside of the country. The rights protected by a patent within the U.S. simply do not extend to foreign countries, as they are not governed by the same laws that we have here. Furthermore, there is no "international" patent that exists that will provide global protection in every country around the world.

Is There No Way to Obtain Worldwide Patent Protection?
The international patent process has historically been a complex one. But in 2014, the USPTO established the Office of International Patent Cooperation (OIPC) to support and make improvements to the international patent process and the system as a whole. In addition, the World Intellectual Property Organization has a Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) application. This application aims to streamline the international patent process by providing a single application that can be filed to obtain patent protection in a substantial number of countries. Currently, there are 152 PCT-contracting states and countries all around the world, a complete list of which you can find on WIPO's website.

While this application method does simplify the process, it's important to know that patent filing fees and requirements vary significantly depending on the country. You should always consult with an experienced patent lawyer to ensure the requirements of a given patent application are fulfilled when you file.

Many experts would agree that if you do consider filing for international patent protection, you make certain to focus on foreign markets that are most commonly known for intellectual property rights violations. But whether you decide to file a PCT application or not, there are other techniques that may allow you to protect your intellectual property rights in foreign countries. These methods may include developing a protection strategy with an experienced lawyer, using extremely detailed language in contracts and all licensing, fully vetting foreign partners, and recording any trademarks or copyrights already registered in the U.S. with our country's Customs and Border Protection. While taking all of these precautions may not always be necessary in every case, you should consider consulting with a reputable patent attorney to be on the safe side.

Even though a U.S. patent does not automatically protect your invention or idea from being stolen in a foreign country, that doesn't mean you have to stand idly by and accept that this outcome is inevitable. By being proactive and taking the step to file a PCT application, you may be able to safeguard your intellectual property rights outside of the United States.

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If you plan to file for patent protection, you'll likely need help from patent lawyers in Colorado to increase your chances of approval. Today, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office receives six times as many applications as it did in 1980. While many of these patents represent the advances made in technological innovations, not every patent is filed for the good of all humankind. In fact, some companies have embraced the practice of "patent trolling," wherein these organizations file for patents used for the purposes of demanding royalty payments and suing actual innovators, rather than inventing something unique and useful themselves. While the USPTO makes every effort to catch these attempts and deny patent approval to applications that do not fit the criteria, it's a massive undertaking that can sometimes result in granting approval to the wrong party.

But now, patent trolls will be at a real disadvantage. In 2011, Congress created a procedure, called the inter parties review, that allows the USPTO to review and potentially cancel patents that have already been issued. This process lets the agency take a second look at their decision to resolve disputes and determine patent eligibility after the fact. Even though that sounds like an overwhelmingly positive idea, there are those who oppose it. Some people have maintained that this procedure is actually unconstitutional, saying that it violates a separation of powers, takes over the role of federal courts, and keeps patent holders from having their day in court.

However, the Supreme Court ruled in late April, in a 7-to-2 vote, that the procedure was constitutional and have upheld the USPTO's official power to conduct reviews and cancel patents as it sees fit. Proponents see the decision as a real victory for businesses and innovators.

Stephanie Martz, general counsel for the National Retail Federation, said in a statement that the ruling was "a major step toward stopping patent trolls and their attempts to commit extortion against retailers and other businesses that have done nothing wrong. Making it clear that many cases can and should be resolved by fixing patents rather than rushing to court to sue for infringement makes it much easier for our members to fight patent trolls."

But those who dissented to the ruling point out that while cleaning up mistakes in such a way is more efficient, the patent protection rights of individuals may be restricted as a result. The idea of fighting patent trolls is certainly ethically appealing, especially to those who represent small businesses and independent innovators (like many patent lawyers in Colorado do). The dilemma and subsequent ruling will likely continue to remain at the forefront of consciousness for some time to come.

Ultimately, this ruling will not deter all patent trolling. There are individuals and organizations out there who are determined to make money by taking advantage of the patent system. That's just one of the ways in which patent lawyers in Colorado can help you during this process. To find out more, please contact our offices today.

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To some, the subject of patents may seem a bit dry. After all, the process of obtaining a patent can be a bit tedious at times. But historically, patents have been involved in their share of controversies, intriguing stories, and ironic twists. We're sharing a few tidbits about patents in today's post that might raise your eyebrows, make you chuckle, or force you to realize that you'll need a qualified patent lawyer in Houston if you want to protect a unique invention of your own.

Honest Abe Received Patent Protection
Abraham Lincoln is known for a great many accomplishments: he was a lawyer, a statesman, and eventually the sixteenth president of the United States. He's also credited with abolishing slavery, strengthening the economy, and being one of the top-rated leaders of the free world. But did you know he's also the only U.S. president to ever receive a patent while he was in office? In May of 1849, Lincoln received patent approval for "Buoying Vessels Over Shoals," an invention that lifts boats over river obstructions and shoals. The device was made up of large expandable bellows, which were to be attached to the sides of a boat to lift the vessel up and over things in its path. Interestingly enough, Lincoln actually worked as a patent attorney, so like your patent lawyer in Houston, he was quite familiar with the application process! The documentation for his patent wasn't actually discovered until 1997 -- more than 130 years after his death.

Dick Cheney's Company Tried to Patent Patents
One former VP wasn't quite so accomplished in obtaining patents. Cheney's former company, Halliburton, filed for patent protection on "patent acquisition and assertion by a (non-inventor) first party against a second party" in 2007. Simply put, they wanted to have exclusive rights on the patent system so they could, as non-inventors, obtain patents on technology actually invented by others. If the actual inventors protected their products with trade secrets rather than patents, Halliburton would then sue those inventors for a lot of money. Basically, they tried to patent what's known as "patent trolling." They weren't granted a patent, of course, but it does illustrate how popular this practice has become. Speaking of which...

Don't Feed the (Patent) Trolls
Ignoring social media trolls is typically a good policy, but you'll need to be proactive in preventing action by patent trolls. Patent trolling refers to when a company obtains rights to a patent (or several) so they can profit from licensing or litigation, rather than by producing their own products or services. In other words, a company that participates in this practice will apply for patents just so they can make companies (which actually make these products the honest way) pay up, either via obtaining rights or by filing lawsuits against them. According to a recent Boston University study, patent trolls cost U.S. business $29 billion a year. That's a significant increase from 2005 figures, which indicated the practice cost only $7 billion a year. Small and mid-sized businesses are hit really hard by these practices. While this practice might not be going anywhere soon, it's important that innovators like you consult with a patent lawyer in Houston to ensure inventions are actually protected.

The Fire Hydrant Patent Went Up in Smoke (Literally)
In a twist of irony, no one actually knows who invented the fire hydrant... because its patent actually burned up in a blaze. The invention is typically credited to Frederick Graff Sr., the chief engineer of the Philadelphia Water Works. It's believed that the patent was granted in 1801, but because the Washington, D.C. patent office burned down in 1836 and destroyed all patent records up to that time, no one really knows.

These factoids show that patents are anything but boring -- and how important it is to obtain patent protection if you've invented something truly special. Be sure to seek out a qualified patent lawyer in Houston to help you navigate this process and make certain your rights are adequately protected.

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With the creation of a new product, software, drug, or anything else that's new and possibly profitable, there is bound to be someone who would not hesitate to copy your idea. 

That's where patents come into play. A patent can be a great way to protect your creation from outside infringement by providing you with a basis to pursue litigation. 

The patent process can be exhaustive, however, and in some cases, it isn't necessary to get one. Even if you do attempt to secure a patent, you may be denied, often for reasons you don't fully understand. An invention needs to meet certain criteria in order to receive a patent: usefulness, novelty, and non-obviousness. However, with emerging technology, patents can often be unfairly denied.

If your invention does meet those criteria, then you could be eligible for a patent. There are many benefits to securing a patent:

  • Making it difficult for competing products to enter the market

  • Discouraging people from attempting to copy your invention (with legal backing)

  • Increasing your companies estimated worth, especially to investors

  • Producing revenue from licensing

  • Creating a foundation for strategic partnerships

While these benefits of patents are considerably helpful, they aren't always necessary. 

It's important to evaluate the potential outcomes of receiving a patent. For instance, you may not need a patent if after your evaluation you conclude:

  • The cost and time spent in the process of securing a patent outweighs any of the potential gains;

  • Because you're in a particularly fast-paced industry, your design might be rendered obsolete before the patent is actually granted; or

  • You are able to keep the fundamentals of your design (or whatever aspect of your invention that's pivotal to your success) confidential, and therefore considered a trade secret and protected by law.

After you've considered all points of obtaining a patent and you believe it is necessary to obtain one, then there are a few steps you must complete. 

  1. You (the inventor) need to consult with a patent attorney. Each state may have different intellectual property laws, so find a patent lawyer who is familiar with your state's patent law. (If you live in Denver, for instance, then you'd hire a patent attorney in Colorado).

  2. The attorney will write up a patent draft for you to review;

  3. Changes to the draft are made if necessary; and

  4. The patent application is filed.

It's important to know not only your company needs when it comes to intellectual property, but your own needs as well. Hiring an attorney can help you find the best course of action to take. 

Looking for a patent attorney in Colorado to guide you through this complex process? Then contact The Eldredge Law Firm, a national intellectual property law firm with a number of Colorado patent attorneys at your disposal.

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If you're an inventor or product creator, you've probably toyed with the idea of getting your products protected by patents. The four ways to protect intellectual property are patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets. Out of all of these, patents are one of the most popular choice for protecting intellectual property.

When it comes to getting a patent for your product, you should look into hiring a patent attorney or a patent lawyer. They can help you with the crucial first step of filing for a patent with the government, but they can also stand with you every step of the way during this complicated, lengthy process. So, how do you find the best patent attorney out there for you? Here are some tips.

Know What You Need

The first thing you need to do before even thinking about hiring a lawyer is to figure out exactly what you need. The type of lawyer you will need for the job depends on what your business or product is focused on. For example, if your company is focused on information technology and software, you need someone who specializes in technology IP, along with patents and copyright. If your company deals with online publishing, you will need to find a lawyer who deals with the First Amendment and copyright infringement. Once you've figured out what you need, it's time to start looking for a lawyer.

Look For Some Options

Before settling on a lawyer, you need to take a look around and see who is available. Reach out to colleagues who have filed for a patent before and ask them if they have worked with a patent attorney in the past. Often, the strongest recommendations come from personal referrals. If they have worked with a patent attorney before, ask them for some suggestions. Also, do a little research online and see if you can find any reviews on any local lawyers near you. If there are a ton of negative reviews about a specific lawyer, you're probably not going to want to work with them.

Interview Potential Lawyers

If you have a few potential lawyers in mind, it's time to sit down with each of them and figure out if they are the right fit for you. Find out specifics like how they go about successfully getting a patent, which patents they have registered in the past, how long their process usually takes, and how much it is going to cost you. You should also ask them for a list of clients or references and do a quick check on them. You want to make sure that the lawyer is telling you the truth, and one of the easiest ways to do that is by reaching out to former clients.

A patent may seem easy to get on your own, but there's actually a lot that goes into it. Because of that, a patent lawyer or patent attorney can be a great deal of help. Take a look at a few of the tips listed above for finding the perfect lawyer for you. 

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Today, the U.S. Patent Office receives six times as many applications for patents as it did in 1980. Due to the ever-evolving technological landscape, innovation is high -- and sharing these inventions with the entire world is possible with just the click of a button. At a time when everyone is clamoring to come up with the next big tech idea, it's become more important than ever to seek out patent protection. If you're a tech-savvy consumer, you'll probably be glad that creators went through the patent process for the following inventions.

  1. GoPro: The founder and CEO of GoPro, Nicholas Woodman, first filed a patent for a unique invention -- a harness that attached a camera to one's body -- in 2004. This invention would allow extreme sports athletes to surf, kiteboard, rock climb, or dance with a camera safely and securely attached to themselves, therefore letting them capture all the action in a totally new way. But it wasn't until 2009, when Woodman's company developed and released its own line of video cameras and attachment methods, that the GoPro's popularity really took off. Some have subsequently tried to imitate this concept for their own gain, but thanks to GoPro's patent, their design remains the leading model.


  2. Square: In 2010, Square filed about a dozen patents to protect their credit card reader -- and independent business owners are thankful they did. Founding engineer Sam Wen developed a portable, easy-to-use system that allows vendors to offer credit card services virtually anywhere they need to be, all right from their cell phone. Frequenters of craft fairs and quirky coffee shops have likely seen this piece of technology quite a bit. The technology is surprisingly affordable (there's even a free version, though the company does charge transaction fees), making it possible for virtually all businesses to accept debit and credit cards.


  3. Dropbox: While this patent doesn't involve a piece of tech you can physically hold in your hand, it's proven to be every bit as useful. Dropbox managed to become the trailblazer in digital file sharing, making it easy to share and instantly synchronize documents and folders across a specific network. MIT alums and co-founders Arash Ferdowski and Drew Houston went through the patent process back in 2010 for their Dropbox design. The technology's unique setup and ability to share and edit documents in such a simple way has solidified it as a techie favorite, even with the other alternatives (like Google Docs) that are now available.

If you have a fantastic idea for a new product, you'll want to do exactly what these innovators did and protect your design. Our patent lawyers in Denver can get you started on the patent process and take steps to ensure your invention remains one-of-a-kind.

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In 2016, the United States Patent and Trademark Office issued 303,051 different patents to innovators across the country. But as your patent lawyer in Denver will have told you, the patent process can be a lengthy and tedious one. Patents can protect your invention from being copied and sold by another company, but when does this patent protection actually start?

All patents must be submitted via application to the USPTO to either be approved or rejected. Once you submit your patent, it enters the "patent pending" stage. You may have seen this designation on advertisements or even on useful products in-person. Sometimes, a company may choose to put a product on the market with the "patent pending" description to deter others from stealing the idea and selling it as their own.

But just because your invention is "patent pending" doesn't mean you can pursue immediate legal action against anyone who tries to take your idea.

The American Inventors Protection Act, passed in 1999, grants infringement protection to inventions that are in the "patent pending" stage. That means that no one can legally copy your idea during the time between when you file for a patent and when one is issued to you. However, there is a catch: if someone does steal your product idea, you cannot file a lawsuit against that person or company until you receive your patent.

That said, the fact that your product is "patent pending" still carries quite a bit of weight. Because patent damages can start to accrue from the application filing date and can even be tripled if the inventor can prove another party's infringement was purposeful, most people will not try to steal your idea if they see that it's "patent pending." An inventor can also file an injunction against the offending company if they're trying to sell the product without the inventor's permission. If a company believes your invention is likely to receive a patent, they probably won't want to take these potentially costly risks.

Keep in mind, though, that it may take up to three years (or more, in some cases) to be granted a patent. The sooner you work with a patent lawyer in Denver to submit your application, the more protected you will be. While virtually anyone can submit a patent application, not every product is unique enough or useful enough to warrant approval. Some inventors spend substantial time and money on promoting a product they've submitted for patent approval without realizing their invention isn't likely to receive one in the end.

That's why it's so important to contact a patent lawyer in Denver early on in the process. That way, you'll have at least a reasonable idea that your invention will be seen as extraordinary enough to receive a patent eventually -- and in the meantime, you can market your idea with its "patent pending" designation to ensure everyone knows your product is protected.

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A moment of inspiration can lead to endless possibilities. Or for some Texas entrepreneurs, the idea takes a little longer to develop. Whether it is just a moment, months or even years, once the idea is firmly embedded, the process of developing the idea into a marketable item can begin. One of the first steps in this process is to keep patent law concerns in mind and to make sure that the idea or product has not already been patented by someone else.

The first step in this process is to research what is currently on the market. Are there similar products or technologies currently available and does someone already hold a patent for the similar item? What is the market for this product? These questions, along with numerous others will need to be answered prior to going too far with the new endeavor.

One part of the research process is often to test market the product or allow others to view it and give feedback. This often gives the individual useful information; however, it can also open the door to others learning about and copying your idea. For this reason, those chosen to preview the product should be carefully selected.

The next step in the process is to actually apply for the patent.  Part of this process involved making sure there are not others patents already in existence and then completing the necessary paperwork. A patent law attorney is often a vital part of this process. Once this has been accomplished, it is time for the Texas entrepreneur to finalize whether to sell or produce the product. Again, an attorney who specializes in patent law can be a critical asset in this decision-making process.

Source: click2houston.com, "How to make money with invention", Debbie Strauss, Feb. 16, 2018

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When it comes to protecting intellectual property, innovators have four different options: trade secrets, copyrights, trademarks, or patents. Copyrights protect original works of authorship, while trademarks protects specific symbols, words, phrases, or designs. Trade secrets safeguard business information, particularly in terms of manufacturing. And, of course, patents are made to protect discoveries and inventions.

If you've created an incredible invention, you may decide to go through the patent process in order to preserve your design and ensure no one can replicate it. But obtaining patent protection isn't always straightforward. You'll need to follow the tips below if you want a good chance of securing a patent.

Make No Assumptions
When you've spent a long time working on an invention, everything about it probably seems obvious to you. But when you start your patent application, you must remember that nothing will seem obvious to a reader. Don't make assumptions about what they may or may not know about your invention, the applications for it, or even your industry. You cannot rely on the reader to fill in any missing information or draw conclusions about what you've created. When working on your application, you should think of your audience as intelligent but with no particular expertise. This will keep you from "talking down" to the reader yet will ensure they gain a complete understanding.

Describe the What, How, and Why
Some inventors will make the mistake of detailing how their creations will be used and why they're necessary, but forget to focus on the actual structure of the item itself. Remember that design purpose is helpful, but it's not enough on its own. Providing detailed drawings isn't sufficient, either. You'll need to describe the product itself in detail (even if it feels quite apparent to you) in addition to how it is used and why it's important.

Start Broad, Then Get Specific
When filing for a patent, you may be inclined to state everything in a general way so that your patent could apply in many situations and applications. Most likely, this won't work in your favor. You might also think it's better to be extremely precise and detail very specific examples in which your invention might be used. While specifics are important, you need to be careful of boxing yourself in. Getting too specific early on could lead to oversights and limitations of your patent. The solution for both of these situations is to start out with a general description -- a broader scope of your invention itself -- and follow it up with more specific details about how it can and will be used. You really do need both to ensure your application will be granted and that the patent will provide the protection you actually need.

Take Everything Literally
When applying for patents, inventors need to remember that their words matter. Choosing the wrong word or term can have significant consequences. A very famous U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit decision found that a Chef America patent contained the phrase, "heat the dough to 450 degrees." This phrase implies that the dough's internal temperature needed to reach 450 degrees, instead of what was actually intended -- that the oven reach 450 degrees. Keep in mind that everything you write in your patent will be taken literally. This is not the time to use popular turns of phrases or make silly diction mistakes. When writing and reading over your patent application, it may help to picture your audience as alien visitors to Earth. Make sure nothing you say can be misinterpreted. Your patent lawyer can ensure your choices in wording can't be taken the wrong way.

Don't Wait Too Long
Patent applications are time-sensitive. Once you publicly reveal your invention, you have only a year to file the application. Public disclosure refers to discussing your invention at a trade show, launching advertising, or putting it up on a website. You should keep your invention under wraps until you're ready to file. Otherwise, you might be taking a big risk.

If you need help filing for patents to ensure your inventions are protected, we're here to help. Contact us today for more information.

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