This article was inspired by one of my Twitter followers, who asked me whether Sprint was infringing upon Verizon's copyright. He was specifically alluding to Verizon's "A Better Network as Explained by Colorful Balls" TV commercial, to which Sprint responded with their own version of a "Colorful Balls" TV commercial.
To establish copyright infringement, plaintiffs must show: 1) ownership of a valid copyright; and 2) unauthorized copying of the copyrighted work. See 17 U.S.C.A. § 101. If a plaintiff holds a valid copyright (here, Verizon does), a juror must be able to establish that: a) the alleged infringer had a reasonable access to the copyrighted work; and b) two works are substantially similar in copyrightable expressions.
Most people hire patent attorneys when applying for a patent, but no one really talks about how it all works and the things you should consider when hiring one (or a whole firm for that matter). I think hiring an attorney is like finding a new hair dresser. You should feel comfortable and be able to communicate freely. Aside from having natural chemistry, your attorney, like your hair dresser, should understand your goals (i.e., what you want to do with your invention vs. what you want your hair to look like) and gain your trust (i.e., handle drafting, filing, and prosecution on your behalf vs. you're at mercy of whoever is cutting your hair).
The first thing you should consider is your budget. If you're a start up and you're tight on budget, you probably should not go to a big firm in downtown of your city. In Philadelphia, big firm lawyers (firms in multiple cities with 200+ attorneys) typically charge clients on an hourly basis. The hourly rate depends on who is doing the work. If you're having a senior attorney (i.e., a partner) work on your application, be expected to be billed at about $600/hr. If you're having a junior attorney (i.e., 1-2 years out of law school) work on your application, be expected to be billed at about $200/hr. Sometimes, you'll have a junior attorney work on your application and then have a senior attorney review it. This may mean that you're being billed for both people's work, so take a look at your invoice carefully. I hear that it's more costly to hire patent attorneys from Washington D.C. and Silicon Valley area.
One of the most chilling moments for small businesses is being hit with a cease and desist letter - more specifically, being hit with a claim for a patent infringement. Panic, stress, and frustration set in. But it's important to not overreact and come up with a game plan. What are your options when you're accused of infringing a patent?
The first thing to do when receiving a cease and desist letter is to validate the claims of the letter. Are you actually infringing the patent in question? This may be a question that you should ask a patent attorney and have him or her conduct an infringement analysis.
No matter how hard we all try to be perfect, we're all bound to make mistakes, at least once. Sometimes, those mistakes appear on your trademark application.These mistakes may not even be your mistakes. They may be someone else's mistakes that you're responsible to fix. But don't panic. USPTO will let you fix most mistakes within reason. Here are the types of mistakes that the USPTO will generally allow you to fix.
Raise your hand if any of these sound familiar to you:
All of these are trademarks owned by celebrities. And yes, some of these (or all of these) are ridiculous.