The wave of Web 2.0 is upon us and information is literally moving at the speed of light. While tangible products are affected is some fashion by the revelation, intellectual property has come under threat.
Regardless of whether we are discussing trademarks, copyrights or patents the risk remains the same; disclosure or theft of this intellectual property (IP) is at an all time high.
For much of the past two decades China was known to be the biggest wrong-doer when it cam to intellectual property theft from the USA. As reported by the IPCommission.org back in 2013 “China is the world’s largest source of IP theft”. While this trend continues there are now other players in the market. Earlier this year Reuters reported that India & China are on the “US Shame List” when it came to IP violations.
Computer programming languages, inventions and books have all been subject to theft by other countries and organizations and sometimes the theft comes from right here in the USA. Amazon.com has ramped up its IP division to protect brands from sellers trying to drive traffic to product listings by use of brand names that may or may not be associated with a given trademark.
So How Can a Company Protect Its Intellectual Property?
Secrecy in patents that are yet to come to market seems to be the only sure fire way to defend against a competitor selling the product to potential customers. Once the product is in the market place, and the patent has been published, a small improvement on the product will lead a new competing company to have a legal right to sell the similar product. Many companies, like Google & Tesla, do not worry about IP and focus rather on steep innovations that they believe competitors will have a hard time emulating. In an article to the public, Tesla CEO Elon Mush published “All Our Patent Are Belong To You” where all patents from Tesla were given to the public in a move to dispel anyone thinking that Tesla was trying to keep certain technology secret and “in the spirit of the open source movement.”
So other than secrecy, Intellectual Property can be policed.
Amazon.com and many other companies are making traction in this department with automatic software that detects whether or not your company’s trademark is being improperly used. Consulting firms (such as us here at Cervitude IR) also help clients police their trademark both online and off-line. This includes data mining the web and retailers to be sure that a particular company’s products, trademarks or copyrights are not being infringed upon.
Of course this is meaningless if an entrepreneur or company has not filed a patent, trademark or copyright in the first place. Filing with the USPTO can be a cumbersome and expensive process which leads many startups to choose not to protect their IP at all. A move that may cause fatality to certain product lines or total businesses in some cases.
In some cases the cost of litigating IP claims can cause companies to fold. The prevention of IP litigation is rarely considered but many IP portfolio’s where built on this premise. Mega companies like Google & Yahoo hold thousands of claims with the USPTO and experts claim that they are simply being held to assure that if an IP lawsuit comes to them they can point to another IP holding and claim that the particular technology was built off of that patent.
If you have a particular question about an Intellectual Property issue or need help filing a trademark, patent or copyright with the USPTO, please contact us. To see our standard services & pricing for IP consulting services click here.