Patent infringements are a common occurrence, especially in a world where new products are designed, manufactured, and sold worldwide and where copycats are a dime a dozen. Many of these infringements become lawsuits or litigations that affect both the complainant and the defendant. The effects can be surprising, too, such as when the complainant ends up shouldering huge litigation expenses that could have been avoided if an amicable settlement was made. Here take a look on the U.S. patent infringement lawsuit for ease of understanding.
The bottom line: Be careful about filing a patent infringement lawsuit because it can have unforeseen consequences. But if you have a great patent lawyer and you have just cause, then you may well benefit from filing it. Here are a few things that you may want to know.
All patent infringement actions have to be filed in the United States District Courts, the general courts of the country’s federal court system. The venue makes sense because patents are considered national in scope and, thus, their litigations should be heard in a national (i.e., federal) court.
Since there’s at least one judicial district for every state, as well as in the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the United States Virgin Islands, the issue of geographical location shouldn’t be a big deal. Currently, there are 94 judicial districts in 50 states and the territories.
The patent infringement action should be filed within six years, maximum, after the date in which the infringement occurred in order to recover damages. Unlike other statutes of limitations, furthermore, the six-year period can be extended when the parties agree to it. For example, a tolling agreement can be in effect while the settlement negotiations are in progress.
But the six-year prescription period cannot be extended by reason of concealment or fraud. For example, if you discover that your invention was incorporated in a machinery 10 years after the fact, you’re unlikely to sue for damages if the infringer covered up the use. We have to say that the rules and regulations of patent infringements don’t automatically favor the patent owner or holder.
While patent infringement lawsuits can be under a jury, the judge alone has the responsibility to interpret the claims for patent ownership made by the plaintiff and the counterclaims of the defendant. The judge and/or jury examines the patent and makes comparisons of the elements made in the lawsuit, said comparison being between the patent’s design and the infringer’s product or process.
From the comparisons made, the judge or jury then decides on the merit of the plaintiff’s claims actually and significantly cover the defendant’s product or process. In case of a read on, the legal term used to describe the plaintiff’s claim covering the product or process, then an infringement offense can be considered.
In the United States, patents grant their owners the exclusive manufacture, use and sale, among other ownership rights, of the inventions. These are considered as grants of limited monopoly granted to inventors by the federal government, specifically by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). But in a world filled with copycats, patents aren’t always respected by the non-holders, an action that can result in patent infringement.
Did you know that patent rights are older than freedom of speech and freedom of the press? Patent rights are actually included in the U.S. Constitution, which was adopted in 1787, under Article I, Section 8! Many of the basic American rights were only established in the Bill of Rights in 1791 or 14 years later.
Through the years, the implementing rules and regulations of patent rights changed in accordance with the times. In the 21st century, these are governed by 35 United States Code, a federal law.
Why are these things important for an inventor to know? If you read the code in its entirety – or at least, gain a basic understanding of its provisions – you will have a deeper understanding of patent infringement.
In a nutshell, patent infringement is the commission of a prohibited act regarding a patented invention without the current patent holder’s or owner’s permission. Keep in mind that patents are property and, thus, these can be bought and sold – the current patent owner must be aggrieved by the commission of the prohibited act. The act can take the forms of making, using, selling or offering to sell, and importing the invention or its equivalent.
Emphasis must also be made that no patent infringement action can be started without a valid patent issued. But inventors can secure pre-grant protection under 35 U.S.C. § 154(d) or file a provisional patent application (PPA).
Wilful and Unintentional Infringement
Wilful patent infringement refers to the deliberate commission of the prohibited act on the part of the offender. Unintentional patent infringement isn’t an excuse for committing it, an adjunct to the principle that ignorance of the law doesn’t excuse the offender.
The former typically involves the offender ignoring the fact that a patent for the product or process already exists and going ahead with its manufacture, use or sales. Many copycats are guilty of this type of patent infringement.
The latter can arise from the cliché that great minds think alike. In many cases, two inventors create essentially the same invention even when they work independently (i.e., the other has no knowledge about the other’s work). In these cases, the general rule is that the inventor who applies for a patent and who has sufficient proof that he was the first to make the invention will be awarded patent rights.
Do you have issues about patent infringement? You should consult a patent attorney for legal advice ASAP!
It is also vital to submit your patent application ASAP. As the patent application is quite professional, we suggest hiring an experienced patent attorney for individuals and organizations.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has strict requirements regarding patent applications for good reasons. Patents, after all, grant their inventors and/or owners the exclusive right to make, use and sell the products and/or processes covered. The USPTO are then extremely careful in granting patents and, in the process, can reject applications based on the smallest detail.
The bottom line: You have to start on the right foot when preparing your design patent application. You should ideally hire an experienced patent lawyer for this purpose. You must, however, still be on top of things, so to speak, by learning the basics including the ones discussed below.
Submitting the Right Documents
The USPTO provides two options for filing design patents: first, via paper application; and second, through its website (online). If you’re filing via the first option, you have to send the application documents by Express Mail. If you’re using the second option, you must convert these documents including the application and drawings to PDF format; there are electronic forms available on the USPTO website.
In both cases, you have to submit certain documents including:
Be sure to read and understand every line of these documents as a precautionary measure. You don’t want your patent application returned or rejected due to a clerical error, among other possible mistakes. You also want to increase the chances of your request patent being granted, not to mention that the USPTO generally doesn’t give refunds even for rejected applications.
Getting the Entries Right
Due to the complexity of the documents, especially the drawings, you should seriously consider hiring experts including a patent lawyer and a graphic designer. You will still retain ownership over the patent once it’s granted obviously.
For the specifications document, here are a few things to get you started:
You can be descriptive with your invention description in the Feature Description field but avoid using flowery words, exaggerations and the like.
For the drawings, keep in mind that the USPTO prefers technical and stylized drawings of inventions. Every element, from stippling and linear shading to using colors and patterns, has a specific meaning so be careful about submitting haphazard drawings. While you can initially submit informal drawings, you will still be required to provide formal drawings by the USPTO examiner before your application can be acted on.
As the patent application is quite professional, we suggest hiring an experienced patent attorney for individuals and organizations.
After filing an initial application for trademark registration, it can be problematic, too. The problem can start with a response to one or more of the solicitations from private companies, a problem that can be prevented if and when you exercise extreme caution when dealing with these offers.
Here are the things that you should be aware of about trademark-related solicitations.
Cold Calling Is the Norm
Solicitation come in two forms: first, an offer of service for trademark initial application; and second, a notice of an approaching trademark filing deadline accompanied by an offer of service. In both cases, there’s usually a fee for the performance of these services.
Your next question is: Why did you get these solicitations from private companies? Keep in mind that when you file a mark application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the information on the application form will become part of the public database. As such, the general public can access your information including your full name and street address.
The private companies sending these solicitations use the USPTO database to identify the individuals and organizations that have filed applications and have upcoming filing deadlines. But always remember that you are never required by the USPTO and other regulatory agencies to use their services in any manner and form.
Beware of the Legitimacy of the Services
Let’s say that you consider the solicitation because it appears legitimate. But don’t plunge with both feet, however, as not all of the services offered are legal and legitimate. You have to exercise extreme caution in considering the types of services offered, especially if these seem too good to be true.
For example, offers for assistance in making an appropriate response to an office action (i.e., a letter from the USPTO detailing the substantive reasons for its refusal to register your mark). But if it’s an offer to record your trademarks in a non-public registry, you should ignore the solicitation – a private registry of trademarks isn’t recognized under present trademark laws in the United States.
Fortunately, you can easily tell the difference between official USPTO notices and potentially misleading offers. For one thing, the official correspondence regarding your initial application or maintenance of registration will be addressed as from the United States Patent and Trademark Office from its national headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. All e-mails will have “@uspto.gov” as the domain name; if it isn’t, your alarm bells should be ringing.
For another thing, the notice from dubious private companies offering trademark registration services can have threatening words to emphasize the urgency of an upcoming deadline. Don’t believe the deadlines stated on these notices – instead, use the Trademark Status and Document Retrieval feature on the USPTO database to check the deadlines.
Ultimately, you have the responsibility to protect yourself against scams, especially as the USPTO doesn’t have the legal authority to prevent private entities from sending unsolicited offers and notices.
As the trademark application is quite professional, we suggest hiring an experienced trademark attorney for individuals and organizations.
The short answer: It depends on whether the abandonment will work for you or against you. Since even your decision to abandon your trademark application has its legal and practical implications, you should seriously considering hiring an experienced trademark attorney.
With or without an attorney, here are a few things that you must consider when deciding whether to abandon or not your application.
Consider the Grounds for Rejection
The action letter, or the rejection letter issued by the USPTO after the examining attorney’s initial examination of you application has been completed, contains the valid grounds for rejection. These grounds can range from technical grounds (e.g., procedural mistake) to substantive grounds (e.g. likelihood of confusion), and each ground should be answered satisfactorily by the patent applicant for the application process to proceed.
From the careful consideration of the grounds stated in the action letter, you can make a decision of abandonment or continuance. You may, for example, abandon the application in case of a rejection based on descriptiveness – if your mark is descriptive according to the standards set by the USPTO, then getting it registered doesn’t give you extra protection in case of an infringement. You can’t sue everybody who uses the descriptive words used in your mark since these are generic by nature.
If the rejection was based on the likelihood of confusion, you have to consider whether the costs in time, energy and money will be worth the benefits in name recognition and recall. You must consider, too, the possibility of a trademark infringement lawsuit if you continue using the mark.
Let’s say that you decide to abandon your application. You should ideally make an express statement of abandonment by filing a Request for Express Abandonment (Withdrawal) of Application through the Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS), an online system at the USPTO official website.
Beware the Consequences of Abandonment
Lest you think that abandonment of your trademark application is easy – look, Ma, no consequences – it isn’t. Keep in mind that there are several ways of abandoning your mark and with these ways come consequences that you should be prepared to deal with.
Let’s assume that for one reason or another, you stopped using the mark for a prolonged period or you failed to maintain quality control over its use. Under the trademark laws, you are considered as having abandoned the trademark and, thus, you will lose the exclusive right to its use.
What can you do if the USPTO sends an action letter expressing final rejection of your mark as non-registrable? You can appeal to the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board in case the reason for rejection was substantive; file a petition to the director if the reason for rejection was technical or procedural; request the examining attorney to make another examination; or amend the application and seek for registration on the Supplemental Register in case of a descriptive mark-based rejection.
And, of course, you can abandon the application and give up the exclusive right to your mark.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) can reject trademark applications on several grounds. The trademark applicant must know the best way to respond to the rejection – and it’s definitely not writing a scathing letter disparaging the USPTO examiner’s qualifications – to get a favorable outcome in the end. Here are things that you need to know about it.
The USPTO examiners write three types of action letters, the term used for trademark application rejections.
If you receive either a technical or a substantive rejection in the mail or by telephone, you shouldn’t lose hope as the examining attorney will give you at least one chance to answer. You will find that these action letters are common so you’re not being singled out, discriminated against, or targeted for exclusion by the USPTO.
The action letter always specifies the number of months that you should respond to the issues being raised as the reasons for rejection. In general, the USPTO gives applicants six months to make the appropriate response to an action letter.
If you don’t respond within the prescribed period, you run the risk of having your application considered as abandoned by the USPTO. In case of abandonment, you have to return to square one of the application process if you still want the trademark registration.
The bottom line: Always send your response to an action letter as soon as possible. But avoid rushing your response since you don’t want to run the risk of yet another rejection call or letter for a minor matter. You have to double check that, indeed, your response corresponds to the grounds for rejection.
Choices to Make
You can choose from these three choices when responding to the action letter:
If you respond to the action letter yourself, you have to make sure that you can actually handle it well – and it’s usually the case for technical rejections. But if you can’t handle the complexity of the grounds for rejection, you shouldn’t try to do so unless you’re willing to risk final rejection. Your trademark lawyer’s services may seem expensive at first but when you consider the benefits, you will likely be willing to pay for these services in the future.