Categories
Amazon Brand Registry Intellectual Property Trademark

Amazon Brand Registry related FAQ

Amazon Brand Registry is one of the strongest Amazon selling tools as a seller can control the entirety of Amazon listings for all products associated with a brand. It’s a free service for a seller who owns a UPSTO registered trademark.

As Amazon Brand Registry is a private program ran and controlled solely by Amazon, Amazon can do whatever it wants regarding the program including registration requirements.

Hence, you should take a note the following materials are only provided as an anecdote of an attorney who only indirectly experienced enrollment in Amazon Brand Registry through his clients.

What is Amazon Brand Registry?

What are requirements to participate in Amazon Brand Registry?

What is Amazon Brand Registry Beta?

Can you use Amazon Brand Registry as soon as you have U.S. Serial Number?

Should I give a chance to Amazon IP Accelerator program?

Why do I need to register my mark/brand/logo with the USPTO?

What is Amazon Brand Registry?

Amazon Brand Registry is an Amazon’s own program that offers its sellers an ability to control, edit, and possibly remove listings related to the sellers’ registered trademark.

Go to Amazon’s Brand Services page to get more info.

What are requirements to participate in Amazon Brand Registry?

The answer used to be simple. In the beginning, Amazon only allowed “registered” trademarks, meaning you need to first have your trademark registered with the USPTO before you enroll in Brand Registry.

The problem was that when you file a trademark application with the USPTO, the following happens:

  • At least four months for the USPTO to examine your mark
  • At least a month for notice to the public via publication
  • At least two months for processing and waiting for USPTO actions

In sum, the trademark registration process takes at least seven months, which means an Amazon seller who launched a new brand would not be eligible to enroll in Brand Registry for a significant period of time.

That brought Amazon to recently start a pilot program Brand Registry Beta that allows sellers in the U.S. and India to apply for Brand Registry as soon as they file an application.

What is Amazon Brand Registry Beta?

It’s an invitation-only pilot program that allows you can request an enrollment of your brand with a pending trademark application.

According to its introduction page, the requirements are

  1. a pending trademark application with the USPTO or the Indian counterpart,
  2. you have an Amazon seller or vendor account, and
  3. you have no trademark currently enrolled in Amazon Brand Registry.

If you met the aforementioned requirements, you need to fill out a form to be waitlisted. The form asks you the followings:

  • Trademark office where your trademark is pending registration
  • The number of your trademark application (serial number for US trademarks and trademark application number for India trademarks)
  • First name
  • Last name
  • Email (valid email addresses only)
  • Company name
  • Brand name
  • If you have a seller central account please provide your merchant token. If you have a vendor central account please provide the email associated with your vendor central account

Can you use Amazon Brand Registry as soon as you have U.S. Serial Number?

A U.S. Serial Number is immediately available when you file a trademark application with the USPTO via TEAS. However, we don’t know yet how soon you can use tools available through Amazon Brand Registry.

When we have statistically meaningful data as to how long the process takes, I will post here.

last update on 9/24/2020 by Young Jeon, Esq.

If you can’t meet the Amazon Brand Registry Beta requirements, you can alternatively consider Amazon IP Accelerator program. The IP Accelerator program has affiliated law firms that offer trademark services and allows you to file a trademark application with one of the law firms and to apply for Brand Registry with the U.S. Serial Number.

IPfever does not participate in Amazon IP Accelerator program, but you can go to the program’s webpage via this link.

We already analyzed the program’s worth in a previous post, but if you need Brand Registry before your trademark gets registered, this is probably your last resort.

Should I give a chance to Amazon IP Accelerator program?

My belief, and also the USPTO’s, is that any U.S. licensed attorney can handle trademark registration, if a sufficient time is given. The key issue is how competent and responsible the lawyer is for your case. It can vary from an attorney to another within a firm.

However, Amazon probably requires the law firms to maintain the quality of the trademark applications, meaning a vast majority of the application should eventually render registration. This gives an incentive to law firms to reduce the likelihood of an Office Action, which gives many clients a reason to abandon their application due to the cost.

If so, the IP Accelerator law firms should be a better choice than many unethical trademark service companies, especially non-attorney service providers of dubious legality, who often blindly files a high likelihood of refusal application without forewarnings to make money.

The best method is to contact a law firm, preferably talk to an attorney, and ask trademark questions first. For example, if what you are hearing is nothing but a recommendation to get Brand Search or Brand Review service, then you might want to try another law firm.

Of course, you can’t never know if a trademark is safe to use, sure to be registered, and so on. Even with Brand Search and Review, it’s never 100%. On the other hand, a competent attorney can provide a general but very helpful overview of your trademark instantly upon hearing about the mark and associated goods/services.

Why do I need to register my mark/brand/logo with the USPTO?

I tend to start a free trademark consultation with a saying, you have a right to a trademark when you use it. There are exceptional circumstances such as Intent-to-Use application under which you can file a trademark application before you start to use the trademark. Nonetheless, trademark registration offers registration of an existing rights related to trademark, servicemark, collective mark, and trade dress.

The registration scheme offers a pre-screening of the alleged rights, including if there are any conflicting marks, and provide notice to the public. This helps businesses can operate with certain expectations that their trademark will be protected. As an incentive, the registered trademarks are given certain enforcement options and heightened legal status.

That does not mean, you don’t have a right to stop others from misappropriating your trademarks by using confusing names, marks, or logos.

It is true that federal trademark registration is almost always recommended unless you deal exclusively with a set of preexisting clients. However, it is also recommended that you should do your marker research and find a distinctive name or logo for your product/service. And when you feel ready, you proceed with the registration process in consideration of your business plan and budget.

On the other hand, if you want to pre-register a name or logo even long before you start actually using the name or logo, let alone your business, then you can always file an ITU application that can hold a name or logo for registration upon your actual use for up to 3 years. ITU applications involve less risk because the trademark examination will be completed before you start using it, so you can more confidently file it yourself.

Categories
TEAS plus Trademark Trademark Application U.S. Trademark

Change Address on TM registration, DIY

Businesses move. And their trademarks should come along. Unfortunately, changing your address on your trademark registration(s) (also in your application(s) if it has not been registered) is not as straightforward as changing your profile on Facebook.

Categories
Intellectual Property Trademark Trademark Application

Amazon IP Accelerator Program

Amazon’s IP Accelerator Program (hereinafter “IPAP”) allows sellers to use Amazon Brand Registry as soon as they file for a trademark application with the USPTO. Typically, registration takes 6-9 months, so this is an exciting program for Amazon sellers.

Categories
General Intellectual Property Trademark Trademark Application U.S. Trademark

How IPfever works: the Real Cost of Getting a Trademark

If you’ve reached this article, you’re very likely mindful about those dubious online trademark services. They’re low cost, and they tend to have bad reviews on online communities like BBB and Yelp. Well, I’m not surprised. I’ve recently had a client who was charged for two international classes ($550 in USPTO fees), but for only one international class the application was actually filed. That’s an outright fraud.

So, now you wonder how IPfever is different. I understand it seemingly has less documentations and lacks fancy charts/diagrams explaining the process. The truth is that IPfever is actually just an online arm of two patent attorneys’ traditional law practice. In other words, though IPfever has online presence, we work like any other law offices with real attorneys except that we have a very different approach to legal fees.

The reason people consider those dubious online services is obviously the cost. When you walk in to a law firm, you’re starting to pay everything you see and interact from there on. The receptionist’s salary? The fancy office furniture? The time you spend in their offices including “free” consultation? All paid by the clients in the end. IPfever attorneys believe attorneys can file a trademark application at a fraction of cost if they work smart.

Not all trademark applications are created equal. Some takes more time and preparation while others may be filed in minutes if not an hour. So, IPfever created this after-the-fact fee structure where clients will not pay unless they are satisfied.

Here’s how it works:

When you request a free consultation, an attorney will contact you and ask you bunch of questions. Of course, you can ask questions, too. But some of those questions will cost money.

For example, if you want to know if you can use a brand name or logo without infringing other’s trademark, or more simply if you can successfully register a brand name or logo with the USPTO, then attorneys will have to do some research to answer that question. These kind of answers will be in a research report that comes with an invoice, which you should pay, theoretically. However, if you feel you’re not happy with the report, then you’re free to walk away.

Other than that, most questions will be answered by your attorney on spot. Some of the questions will take a lot of time answering because you might ask something like “what about this design feature?” There, your attorney will try to guide you through the process of getting a registered trademark based on your specific needs about the cost, timeline, the ultimate strength of registered trademark, and etc. When you say the cost is your top priority, your attorney will lead you to the shortest way, but meanwhile you will be informed about the risks that you’re taking. Sometimes, you are willing to take a risk to save money, and we fully understand.

After that initial consultation, attorneys can give you the estimate of cost for filing an trademark application with the USPTO. This would include all the USPTO fees, and unless your application is initially refused for some reason, that is all you pay for the registration.

If you like what you saw and heard so far, you give your attorney a nod, and a trademark application will be ready in 2-3 business days. Then, you will receive a report of details of the trademark application and an invoice, for the services done so far and the USPTO filing fees. You make the payment, and your application will be filed with the USPTO.

This is not the most straightforward process because more often than not, the first question you ask is how much it costs? Well, the obvious answer is “it depends”. Maybe we can simply say $1,000 per trademark, excluding USPTO fees, like other attorneys. We can certainly do that because the average cost of getting a registered trademark at IPfever is less.

From February 2020 to June 2020, the average cost of getting a registered trademark at IPfever was about $425.

Then, why not just do $500 flat fee? Well, the lowest was $130. What should we say to the client for whom we only spent $130 worth time and resources? We understand the fear of getting unexpected legal invoices, and that is why we always try to provide estimates before we move and also have the “100% satisfaction guarantee”: if you’re not satisfied with the services, you don’t have to pay the invoice. Just let us know what went wrong, and we will try to fix it or simply cancel the invoice.

I hope you find this article helpful, and if you have further questions, simply request a free consultation and include your question there.

Categories
TEAS plus Trademark Trademark Application Trademark Examination

Acceptable identifications of goods and services

There are good reasons you should stick to the Trademark ID Manual when you describe your goods and services in your trademark application. Picking one outside Trademark ID Manual not only cost you more but also may delay the registration process.

Why is the description important?

First, you need to understand there are two different classification systems: (1) the Nice Classification (NCL) and (2) a Trademark Identifications and Classifications Project (or TM5). The NCL is a “compulsory” classification system, which is annually updated and currently lists about 80 international classes (ICs). TM5 is an “optional” classification regime that simply seeks to unite the big 5 intellectual property agencies in the world (obviously the USPTO is one of them).

Long story short, NCL gives categories and TM5 gives sub-categories. And some sub-categories adopted by the USPTO are yet adopted by all major intellectual property offices, meaning they are okay with the USPTO although not TM5.

The reason you need to place your trademark in a proper category arises from the very reason you want your trademark registered. As you probably know by now, trademark is quite different from other intellectual properties in that it is not about protecting your ingenuity or creativity but about protecting your goodwill and reputation in the market.

What this means is that your pretty logo or emblem is protected by the trademark law not because you created it but because you used it in association with your goods/services. If you want to protect your artistic or literary expression, you should seek copyright protection.

So, why we need appropriate classification? On the paper, your trademark protection likely goes only as far as the IC in which your product/service belongs. For example, you run a bakery named Flew Blast, and someone launches an athletic clothing brand Flew Blast . You unlikely can argue your trademark right is being infringed.

If you have two or more ICs in which your goods/services belong, you need to file multiple-class trademark application. In reality, you simply list all ICs in an application and pay the application fee multiplied by the number of ICs you elected.

How to Identify My Goods/Services?

Once you have chosen all ICs that apply to your goods/services, now you need to tell the USPTO why you selected those ICs. At least one good/service must be entered for each IC in your application, and it can be as many as you like. The thing is that your business is likely dealing with many types of goods/services in an IC. For example, all cosmetics belong to the international class 003 except those having medicinal purposes. The latter would belong to the international class 005 with other medicines.

It might be tempting to include just every possible goods/service you can find in the USPTO’s Trademark ID manual. After all, it is for no extra charge. However, one of the goals of the USPTO is to allow all rightful owners of trademarks to register their trademarks for protection. Sometimes, even within an IC, there can be instances where quite similar trademarks can be used by two business owners without much conflict or confusion among the consumers. That might be due to no overlapping of potential customers between these two among many other reasons. The identification of goods and services can tell if there would likely be an overlapping of potential customers.

To deter anyone in bad faith claims all the goods/services within an IC, the trademark examiner at the USPTO may require you to submit more than one specimen per international class. (see below for further discussion of specimen) Potentially, a specimen for each and every goods and services listed. Also, you should know that you trademark registration can be cancelled for your false statement.

The TEAS allows you to search the Trademark ID Manual while you are filling in the trademark application. So, do a thorough search and find descriptions that cover all the goods and services you provide. Sometimes, you may find just one description covers it all. Other times, you find two descriptions that more or less cover the same goods and services. You do not need to include all descriptions that apply to your goods/services. If one covers it all, select it and move on. If one does not carry all the way, find another one. Just keep going till everything is covered.

Statement of Use (Allegation of Use)

Whether you are currently using the trademark or you only intend to use it later, at some point you must prove that you are actually using it. That proof is a specimen. A specimen is usually a photography of a good that bears the trademark. The specimen should show the entirety of the product not just the trademark, which is obvious because you already provided how the trademark looks in the earlier stage of the application. Also, it should show the trademark as it is filed, meaning if you have claimed colors in the application, you photo cannot be a black-and-white one. When it comes to services, you need to find a way to show that your mark is used in association with your service/business. Nowadays, a screenshot of your business website should be your first consideration. Simply find the page that actually selling the services, meaning customers can place an order or find contact information. A screenshot of the webpage, which obviously should show your trademark as well, would be a good and convincing specimen.

How many specimens do you need? I would go for one specimen for one IC by default. Just think about how extensive your list of goods/services, and you feel you should show more than just one, then feel free to go ahead and include more specimens. The thing is if the examiner wants to see more specimen, they will simply ask you in an office action. You would have 6-months to add more specimen, and once you upload your specimens in the system using the Response to Office Action form, which can be found here, you are all set. You would face some delay depending on how quickly your examiner re-visit your application, but if your goods/services are cohesive and reasonable, it is unlikely that your examiner asks for more specimen.

Categories
General Legal Service

Licensed Attorney Volunteer

Young Jeon, JD has a BS in biotechnology, passed Fundamentals of Engineering exam, and registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office as a patent attorney.

At IPfever, he’s helped many inventors and innovative businesses to obtain patents and trademarks and drafted applications in a broad technological spectrum, including mechanical and computer science. With his years of experience in patent and trademark prosecution, he can provide a valuable insight as to intellectual property rights.

If you’re an organizer for a local community/school event or trade show featuring inventions and new ideas and require a volunteer judge or counselor, you may contact him directly at young.jeon@ipfever.com. Please include the following details of your event:

  • time and date,
  • location, and
  • expected participation.
Categories
Intellectual Property Trademark

TM Int. Classes (11-2018)

Class 1

Chemicals for use in industry, science and photography, as well as in agriculture, horticulture and forestry; unprocessed artificial resins, unprocessed plastics; fire extinguishing and fire prevention compositions; tempering and soldering preparations; substances for tanning animal skins and hides; adhesives for use in industry; putties and other paste fillers; compost, manures, fertilizers; biological preparations for use in industry and science.

Class 2

Paints, varnishes, lacquers; preservatives against rust and against deterioration of wood; colorants, dyes; inks for printing, marking and engraving; raw natural resins; metals in foil and powder form for use in painting, decorating, printing and art.

Class 3

Non-medicated cosmetics and toiletry preparations; non-medicated dentifrices; perfumery, essential oils; bleaching preparations and other substances for laundry use; cleaning, polishing, scouring and abrasive preparations.

Class 4

Industrial oils and greases, wax; lubricants; dust absorbing, wetting and binding compositions; fuels and illuminants; candles and wicks for lighting.

Class 5

Pharmaceuticals, medical and veterinary preparations; sanitary preparations for medical purposes; dietetic food and substances adapted for medical or veterinary use, food for babies; dietary supplements for humans and animals; plasters, materials for dressings; material for stopping teeth, dental wax; disinfectants; preparations for destroying vermin; fungicides, herbicides.

Class 6

Common metals and their alloys, ores; metal materials for building and construction; transportable buildings of metal; non-electric cables and wires of common metal; small items of metal hardware; metal containers for storage or transport; safes.

Class 7

Machines, machine tools, power-operated tools; motors and engines, except for land vehicles; machine coupling and transmission components, except for land vehicles; agricultural implements, other than hand-operated hand tools; incubators for eggs; automatic vending machines.

Class 8

Hand tools and implements, hand-operated; cutlery; side arms, except firearms; razors.

Class 9

Scientific, nautical, surveying, photographic, cinematographic, optical, weighing, measuring, signalling, checking (supervision), life-saving and teaching apparatus and instruments; apparatus and instruments for conducting, switching, transforming, accumulating, regulating or controlling electricity; apparatus for recording, transmission or reproduction of sound or images; magnetic data carriers, recording discs; compact discs, DVDs and other digital recording media; mechanisms for coin-operated apparatus; cash registers, calculating machines, data processing equipment, computers; computer software; fire-extinguishing apparatus.

Class 10

Surgical, medical, dental and veterinary apparatus and instruments; artificial limbs, eyes and teeth; orthopaedic articles; suture materials; therapeutic and assistive devices adapted for the disabled; massage apparatus; apparatus, devices and articles for nursing infants; sexual activity apparatus, devices and articles.

Class 11

Apparatus for lighting, heating, steam generating, cooking, refrigerating, drying, ventilating, water supply and sanitary purposes.

Class 12

Vehicles; apparatus for locomotion by land, air or water.

Class 13

Firearms; ammunition and projectiles; explosives; fireworks.

Class 14

Precious metals and their alloys; jewellery, precious and semi-precious stones; horological and chronometric instruments.

Class 15

Musical instruments.

Class 16

Paper and cardboard; printed matter; bookbinding material; photographs; stationery and office requisites, except furniture; adhesives for stationery or household purposes; drawing materials and materials for artists; paintbrushes; instructional and teaching materials; plastic sheets, films and bags for wrapping and packaging; printers’ type, printing blocks.

Class 17

Unprocessed and semi-processed rubber, gutta-percha, gum, asbestos, mica and substitutes for all these materials; plastics and resins in extruded form for use in manufacture; packing, stopping and insulating materials; flexible pipes, tubes and hoses, not of metal.

Class 18

Leather and imitations of leather; animal skins and hides; luggage and carrying bags; umbrellas and parasols; walking sticks; whips, harness and saddlery; collars, leashes and clothing for animals.

Class 19

Building materials (non-metallic); non-metallic rigid pipes for building; asphalt, pitch and bitumen; non-metallic transportable buildings; monuments, not of metal.

Class 20

Furniture, mirrors, picture frames; containers, not of metal, for storage or transport; unworked or semi-worked bone, horn, whalebone or mother-of-pearl; shells; meerschaum; yellow amber.

Class 21

Household or kitchen utensils and containers; cookware and tableware, except forks, knives and spoons; combs and sponges; brushes, except paintbrushes; brush-making materials; articles for cleaning purposes; unworked or semi-worked glass, except building glass; glassware, porcelain and earthenware.

Class 22

Ropes and string; nets; tents and tarpaulins; awnings of textile or synthetic materials; sails; sacks for the transport and storage of materials in bulk; padding, cushioning and stuffing materials, except of paper, cardboard, rubber or plastics; raw fibrous textile materials and substitutes therefor.

Class 23

Yarns and threads, for textile use.

Class 24

Textiles and substitutes for textiles; household linen; curtains of textile or plastic.

Class 25

Clothing, footwear, headgear.

Class 26

Lace and embroidery, ribbons and braid; buttons, hooks and eyes, pins and needles; artificial flowers; hair decorations; false hair.

Class 27

Carpets, rugs, mats and matting, linoleum and other materials for covering existing floors; wall hangings (non-textile).

Class 28

Games, toys and playthings; video game apparatus; gymnastic and sporting articles; decorations for Christmas trees.

Class 29

Meat, fish, poultry and game; meat extracts; preserved, frozen, dried and cooked fruits and vegetables; jellies, jams, compotes; eggs; milk and milk products; oils and fats for food.

Class 30

Coffee, tea, cocoa and artificial coffee; rice; tapioca and sago; flour and preparations made from cereals; bread, pastries and confectionery; edible ices; sugar, honey, treacle; yeast, baking-powder; salt; mustard; vinegar, sauces (condiments); spices; ice (frozen water).

Class 31

Raw and unprocessed agricultural, aquacultural, horticultural and forestry products; raw and unprocessed grains and seeds; fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh herbs; natural plants and flowers; bulbs, seedlings and seeds for planting; live animals; foodstuffs and beverages for animals; malt.

Class 32

Beers; mineral and aerated waters and other non-alcoholic beverages; fruit beverages and fruit juices; syrups and other preparations for making beverages.

Class 33

Alcoholic beverages (except beers).

Class 34

Tobacco; smokers’ articles; matches.

Class 35

Advertising; business management; business administration; office functions.

Class 36

Insurance; financial affairs; monetary affairs; real estate affairs.

Class 37

Building construction; repair; installation services.

Class 38

Telecommunications.

Class 39

Transport; packaging and storage of goods; travel arrangement.

Class 40

Treatment of materials.

Class 41

Education; providing of training; entertainment; sporting and cultural activities.

Class 42

Scientific and technological services and research and design relating thereto; industrial analysis and research services; design and development of computer hardware and software.

Class 43

Services for providing food and drink; temporary accommodation.

Class 44

Medical services; veterinary services; hygienic and beauty care for human beings or animals; agriculture, horticulture and forestry services.

Class 45

Legal services; security services for the physical protection of tangible property and individuals; personal and social services rendered by others to meet the needs of individuals.

Categories
Intellectual Property Trademark Trademark Application

Online Trademark Services: Good or Bad?

Let’s talk about filing a TM application without any help first.

There is no doubt that any US person, including legal entity having address in the U.S., can file a trademark application without absolutely no help.

Categories
Intellectual Property Patent Patent Application

Patent Obviousness Rejection Explained

Obviousness is a very common reason for rejection.

A grant of patent without a single rejection is quite uncommon. One of the reason is that most applicants want to claim broadest possible for the greatest protection of law.

Broadening the scope of claims.

To maximize the scope of your claim, you don’t want to include unnecessary details in your claim. Let’s take a look at an example (from a real patent). You don’t have to read it through, just scheme.

[an excerpt from US8143982B1, bold added]

Drawing-1
always easier to understand the claims with drawings

1. An accessory unit, comprising:

a hinge span, the hinge span including a first magnetic element suitable for magnetic attachment to a host unit having a display; and

a flap portion pivotally connected to the hinge span, the flap portion comprising:

a plurality of segments all but one of which are substantially the same size and wherein one segment is wider than the other segments, wherein each segment includes a pocket that is about the same size as the corresponding segment,

a rigid insert incorporated into each pocket, the rigid insert providing support for the associated segment, and

a folding region between each of the segments arranged to allow the plurality of segments to fold with respect to each other, wherein a first segment is located at a first end of the flap at the hinge span and includes a magnetically attractable element and wherein a second segment is located at a second end of the flap opposite the first end and includes a plurality of magnets, wherein in a first folded configuration the flap portion forms a triangular structure when the first and second segments are folded one atop the other such that at least one of the magnets in the second segment magnetically attract the magnetically attractable element in the first segment, wherein the first and second segments that are folded one atop the other and magnetically attached to each other form one side of the triangular structure that is about equal in width to a second side of the triangular structure each of which is narrower than a third side of the triangular structure.

[end of claim 1]

What’s claimed?

By looking only at highlighted words, you can figure out that it has two main components, a hinge span and a flap portion, and the flap portion has three sub-components, a plurality of segments, a rigid insert for each segment, and a folding region between each of the segments.

What do you make out of it? Well, it’s iPad Smart Cover by Apple.

Let’s look into the details.

A hinge span is described as follows: including a first magnetic element suitable for magnetic attachment to a host unit having a display.

It doesn’t say a magnet or a tablet PC. Instead, it says a magnetic element suitable for magnetic attachment and a unit having a display, respectively. If it said a magnet, someone can make a cover with a lodestone instead of a magnet and avoid infringement. The same thing goes to the tablet PC.

But, why not just an element suitable for attachment? I think that would be the track which leads to the obviousness trap. Granted it would expand the scope, it also eliminates an outstanding element from the invention. Every cover has some element for attachment.

On a side note,

what about a unit having a display? Why not a unit having a flat surface? Well, Apple is an electronics company, and it probably wouldn’t make a cover for your photo frame. In that sense, a display pretty much is everything that needs to be covered in Apple’s patent.

Infusing non-obvious elements into claims.

Skipping forward to the bulky section, a folding region, can you guess why in the world it is so long? Well, you guess it’s important, right?

This is the section that makes this cover distinct from any other cover design within people’s mind (at the time of invention, of course). It describes how the segments of a cover fold and magnetically bind together to form a rigid stand that can support a host unit. So, you have to describe it fully.

By the way, a cover that folds into a stand is not an invention by Apple. Search Google Patents “US8960421B1” and you will see a prior patent filed by Incase Designs Corp. that has almost identical folding functionality.

Let’s take a look at a claim by Incase Designs [excerpt from US8960421B1].

Drawing-2

1. A cover for an electronic device comprising:

a rectangular front cover comprising first, second, and third panels between a first edge and second edge of the front cover, wherein the first panel is closer to the second edge than the second and third panels, the second panel is between the first and third panels, and the third panel is adjacent the second panel,

between the first and second panels is a first hinge, and

between the second and third panels is a second hinge;

a back cover, coupled to the front cover, which will retain the electronic device in the case; and

[It goes on, but let’s stop here.]

So, a flap portion of Apple patent can’t overcome an obviousness rejection by itself despite the elaborated manner of how segments fold and get attracted together to form a stand; that’s where the magnetic element for attachment comes into play. This magnetic element obsolete a back cover, which is listed in the Incase Designs’ patent claim.

Here’s an important question: if Incase Designs knew a way to make a cover without a back cover, would its claim include the back cover element in the claims?

The fact that Incase Design included the back cover element in the claim supports the non-obviousness of replacing a back cover with a magnetic element.

You can read more about this in “Including an unnecessary element in the claims.” 

How to deal with an obviousness rejection.

After a careful thought and drafting an application, you can still get a rejection based on obviousness. In this case, you can try again, or get help from patent attorneys.

Categories
Intellectual Property Patent Patent Application

How to Write a Patent Application: Specification

Patent Specification in your application is the body of your application.

Your patent claims will be read in the context of the specification. Therefore, the specification should include all the information necessary to figure out what you claimed in your patent claim(s).  Roughly speaking, it should be an all-inclusive manual for your invention.

It’s part of the deal you’re making with the public.

You’re disclosing  your invention to the public, and in exchange you’ll be granted a monopoly for a limited time. To ensure fairness in this deal, you’re required to fully and comprehensibly disclose your invention without hiding anything.

You should focus on making the invention available to the public. 

If you want to hide something from the public, you’re free to do so by opting out from disclosing it, in which case you shouldn’t claim it either. However, you shouldn’t attempt to hide even a minute detail of your claimed invention because it can invalidate your patent retrospectively.

For example, let’s say you know two ways to make your invention. You know one works better than the other, but you don’t want people know about the better one. If you disclose the other one only, the patent will be held invalid.

If you don’t claim it now, you may lose it forever.

You may be tempted to include everything you know in your patent application because it would make sure you disclose adequately. Be careful when you include something in your disclosure which are not claimed. Filing a patent application is considered a publication. If you publish something, you will have a year to file a patent application for it. After that, you can’t patent it.

There’s much more.

Although you can learn a lot from the patent applications you found during your clearance search, it’s still not a perfect guide for your specification. To understand your claim, one must read the specification. For this reason, asking an attorney who reviewed your claim(s) to review your specification could be a lot less time-consuming than you think. You don’t need to pay for the separate availability retainer in that case. Just talk to the lawyer who reviewed your claim(s).

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Intellectual Property Patent Patent Application

How to Write a Patent Application: Claims

Patent claim in your application defines your invention.

And it will determine the scope of your legal rights. In other words, it will tell the others what can be done and cannot be done without infringing your patent right.

Read the claims written by professionals.

By the time you start drafting your application, you probably read at least a number of patent applications. And if you did with care, you would’ve noticed the peculiar but consistent writing style.  In fact, you must follow a specific set of rules created by the USPTO when writing claims.

Pay attention to details including punctuation and spacing.

You shouldn’t worry about plagiarism. Use the wordings and grammar (including all formalities) that you see in the patent applications that are granted. Don’t be creative and get rejected.

What about the substance?

Patent applications often have multiple claims, and a claim likely has a multiple components.

The wordier the better?

No. If you include a non-essential component in your patent claim, your competitor can avoid infringement by making a product without the component.

Then, as little as possible?

That’s another no. If there is an alternative material or device which you left out, it could lead to an easy design-around for your competitor.

There’s much more.

To be honest, it is not an easy task to write a good claim. For example, patent law distinguishes “comprising” and “consisting.” If you say your fuel additive consists of chemical A and chemical B, you are telling that there’s no other chemical than A and B. “Comprising” is, on the other hand, open-ended.

Should you know all these technicalities? Well, if you want to become a patent practitioner. Otherwise, it’s more efficient to have a patent practitioner take a look at what you wrote. If your invention is not too complicated, the review shouldn’t take too long.

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Intellectual Property Patent U.S. Patent

Why getting patent so expensive?

It doesn’t have to be so expensive.

It’s just that the law firms, boutiques, or their likes practicing patent law are focused on serving bigger mostly corporate clients rather than individual inventors.

When it comes to an invention which is more about an idea and less about technology, you don’t need PhDs spending hours reviewing the art let alone attorneys.

In addition, firms charge more money per hour for small clients than those bigger corporate accounts that generate vast volumes. You can’t really blame them as that’s how business works, but it’s unfortunate that there are few options for individuals and small businesses.

There are alternative, smarter ways to work with attorneys thanks to the internet.

It won’t be easy to find them because the internet search usually shows heavily advertised service first, which can be cheap but not necessarily a better deal. At all times, make sure that you’re working with a patent attorney/agent who’s registered with the USPTO.

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Intellectual Property Patent U.S. Patent

Utility vs. Design Patent

Actually there are more than one type of patent.

There’s utility patent, which is basically what you think patent is. And there’s design patent, which is somewhat unpopular but got the attention when Apple sued Samsung for infringing its design patent.

These two types likely cover all your needs. If you want to protect the cosmetic features of your product, consider design patent. For all other cases, you’ll be thinking a utility patent.

To add, if your design feature has a utility in it (i.e. when your new design serves a function), then you will probably have to go with a utility patent.

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Intellectual Property Patent U.S. Patent

What can be patented?

You found nothing like yours in your Google Patents search, and you might feel ready to patent your new idea. It’s not that simple.

First, your invention should be new in a sense that people don’t know it yet.

Even if nobody really patented an idea, the idea might be known to many as a common sense or to a small number of people known as experts or scholars. It doesn’t matter how many people know it.

When you go into detailed analysis, it gets more complicated. Let’s say your company is the first to sell a mouse pad made of bamboo and you want to patent it.

  1. The bamboo is obviously not a new material; it’s not even a man-made material. Clearly, it’s not something you can consider an invention.
  2. Similarly, a mouse pad is not a new thing. It’s been made of many different materials and widely used in personal computing.
  3. Now, a mouse pad made of bamboo? Let’s further assume nobody on the planet Earth ever made or used a mouse pad made of bamboo. Is it new then?

Unfortunately, it’s not. The law will not only look at the things that already exist but also guess what can be done with existing technology and skills. I mean bamboo is a sturdy and hard material that can be easily shaped into a small plate. The law will likely say that your new idea of making a mouse pad with a bamboo was obvious. Basically it’s saying that “we don’t need an inventor to do that.”

Second, you have to fit your idea into certain categories that can be patented.

The law provides a short list: process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter. If you think about it, it’s pretty broad. In the above example, we discussed a bamboo mouse pad as a manufacture, which we concluded not patentable.

However, you may have a ground-breaking manufacturing method to process a raw bamboo tree into a large plate that can be easily cut into any shape of mouse pads. Well, that might be a patentable “process”.

We can go further. If you designed and made a machine for the processing of raw bamboo trees, you may patent the machine as long as it satisfies other requirements. As you can guess, inventors often patent a manufacture, the process of making it, and the machine that performs the process at the same time.

Lastly, your idea has to have a purpose.

This is usually not a concern because the law doesn’t ask for a good one. If you can find a single use for your invention, that’ll be fine. The use doesn’t have to be new or better than others. In fact, even if your method of processing bamboo turned out to be too expensive to make economic sense, it still has a utility in the eye of the law.

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Intellectual Property Trademark Trademark Maintenance

Trademark Maintenance: does trademark registration expire?

Maintaining registration calls for both administrative and executive action.

Administratively, you need to file with the USPTO a showing that you’re still using the mark after 5 years of the registration, and every 10 years, you need to file a request for renewal.

On the business side, you must continue using your mark at all times, even after the registration. This requirement is often overlooked because your staff who handles trademark typically has no saying in continuing/discontinuing a product line.

You need to monitor your registration status and enforce your trademark rights yourself.

Trademark Status and Document Retrieval (TSDR) service offered by the USPTO is a good place to start. The USPTO recommends every trademark applicant to check TSDR regularly.

The USPTO does not enforce registered trademarks for the owners. It’s your obligation to monitor infringing activities in the market and take actions to stop them. Often it involves writing a letter to notify the wrongdoer and ask for compliance/compensation, but you may need to bring a lawsuit if there’s a dispute.

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Intellectual Property TEAS plus Trademark Trademark Application U.S. Trademark

TEAS Plus vs. Standard Explained

By carefully filling out all the required blanks and agreeing to go paperless in communicating with the USPTO, you can reduce your application fees from $325 to $225 (TEAS plus).

TEAS RF Standard allows you to enter goods/services description in your own words for a slightly heftier fee, but it is not recommended if you want the examination process to be as quick as possible. If you pick one from the Trademark ID manual (by USPTO), the examiner will unlikely oppose to the propriety of the description.

Not all questions are straightforward. When you’re in doubt, always consult USPTO guidelines. Always consult a professional before making decisions. All you learned today may be a tip of an ice burg.

Updated on 7/10/2020 to reflect name changes in USPTO TEAS forms (from Reduced Fees to Standard Fees). This change was made because non-electronic filing (which required a higher “standard” fee) is not available anymore.

Young Jeon, Esq.
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Intellectual Property Patent U.S. Patent

Patent Infringement: Clearance Search Explained

Patent clearance search is called a Freedom-To-Operate opinion because it reveals others’ patents that are blocking your way. It requires searching and analyzing patent documents in the country where you do business.

Even if you invent something new, it is often based on other’s previous works.

For example, you get a patent on a new cap design for plastic bottles, which reduces the cost of production. Even though you have rights to the new cap design, someone else might have patent rights to the bottle’s body design. Without the body, you won’t be making  a good use of the cap. Furthermore, even if you design an entirely new bottle (both the cap and the body), the method of making bottles out of plastic might have been patented. These are blocking patents because without infringing them you can’t practice your right.

You can search through patent documents via Google Patents (a free service by Google at https://patents.google.com).

Once you identify a potentially blocking patent, the scope of the patent needs to be analyzed.

1. Claims determine the scope.

Patent applicants are required to stipulate in the Claims what exactly their invention is about. All other parts of patent application help you understand the claim.

2. The scope will be construed by the courts.

What the patent owner believes does not matter. Nor does what you or your attorney think matter. When there’s a patent lawsuit, the court may side with either your attorney or your opponent’s attorney.

However, a legal opinion formed by a qualified attorney in your favor is helpful. For example, let’s say someone sued you for patent infringement and is being awarded for damages. If you can prove that you relied on your attorney’s advice that there’s no infringement, you may shield yourself from the penalties for willful infringement (i.e. knowingly violating someone else’s right). The penalties can increase the damages up to three times.

3. Patents do expire, so you should check the dates.

Most patents expire after 20 years from the filing date. So, if you find an old blocking patent, that might be actually a good news. Once the patent expires, you know for sure that’s in the public domain.

Blocking patents bar you from not only selling but also importing.

Often you rely on production facilities overseas and feel that blocking patents are not your problem. But if foreign products infringe U.S. patents, they can’t be imported into the U.S.  Of course, the other way around is true.

You can design around, get license, or challenge the patent’s validity.

When there’s a blocking patent, there are still things you can do. You can design around, meaning you find other ways to achieve the same outcome; you can get a license if the patent owner is willing to let you use the invention for a reasonable loyalty; or you can argue before the court that the patent is not valid.

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Intellectual Property Patent U.S. Patent

Patent: what is it?

Patent is an expensive but smart way to protect your business.

Getting a patent is not a quick and easy process. It usually takes years of prosecution (though you can claim “patent pending” from the moment you file the application) and thousands of dollars. However, the reward is a government sanctioned monopoly. Yes, MONOPOLY.

Patent is a deal you make with the public.

You discloses something other people don’t know, and in exchange other people can’t use it for a limited time period (about twenty years) unless you allow them. It’s a win-win. You don’t have to worry about someone else stealing your idea, and the others can learn and improve your invention.

It’s not a contract.

Although the exchange of knowledge and a monopoly right is between you and the rest of the society, there’s no contractual relationship between you and the society. Instead, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) issues a patent to applicants who discloses their knowledge in patent applications which meet certain requirements. Moreover, if someone infringes your patent rights, you don’t go to the USPTO (nor to a law enforcement agency) but to courts.

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Intellectual Property Trademark U.S. Trademark

Trademark Clearance Search

It is absolutely necessary to find out if there is anyone using your mark prior to your use. A clearance search is often performed through proprietary services, which often search not only state and federal registrations but also common law trademarks. Typically, a better service costs more; but depending on your situation a simple Google search may suffice.

Typically, a clearance search provides lists of all current state, federal, common law trademarks that are identical or similar to your mark. Unless your mark is very unusual, you will face a number of identical and similar trademarks in use. Even if there is an identical trademark registered and used, it does not necessarily mean that you can’t use the mark; however, it is also true that even if there is no identical trademark, you might not be able to use the mark. At the end it all comes down to whether your use of the mark would infringe other trademark owner’s rights.

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Intellectual Property TEAS plus Trademark Trademark Application U.S. Trademark

Trademark Registration: do I need to hire an attorney?

Getting a trademark, you can either “do it yourself” or hire a professionals. DIY option describes not only filing directly via TEAS at USPTO.gov but also using commercial services under $100.

Let’s compare these two options.

Do it yourself Professional Help
Mark Your choice of wording and design Likely a better wording and design
Registration online trademark search/registration via your representative
Cost USPTO fees + $100 commercial service fees USPTO fees + up to $2,000 attorney fees + design cost

Trademark registration is not too complicated.

Nonetheless, mistakes can cost your time and money. If you are not going to hire an attorney, you should read and watch everything on USPTO’s Trademark Basics before you proceed. On a side note, even if things go smoothly while registering trademark, lawyers can improve the strength of the registered trademark significantly and designers will give your logo/design a professional look.

USPTO offers an online application form through TEAS (Trademark Electronic Application System).

There are various forms including TEAS plus, TEAS RF (Reduced Fee), and TEAS regular application types. Latter forms are subject to higher fees but offers some flexibility to applicants. Assuming you don’t make any mistake in filling out the form, you can save up to $100 by choosing TEAS plus. TEAS forms are web-based, guided, multi-page forms that anyone can learn the process as-you-go.

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Intellectual Property Trademark Trademark Application

Standard Character mark v. Special Form mark

There are mainly two types of trademark, a standard one and a stylized one.

Coca-cola_stylized_logo

A standard one (called a standard character mark) establishes your trademark rights to the written words of the mark whereas a stylized one (called a stylized/design mark) to the expression of the words in a certain way.

For example, “Coca-Cola” is a brand name of a certain soda drink, registered to the Coca-Cola Company. But you more often see the name in a particular style as shown here.

Nowadays, the use of stylized logos and designs is very common because it effectively sets apart the company/brand from competitors’.

A common choice is Standard Character.

Although virtually all companies use at least some design/style elements in their trademark, still most of the companies register their trademark in a standard character format. Why?

  1. They don’t want their trademark right to be limited to a specific design. In fact, if you registered your brand name in a standard character format, any style/design of that registered name can’t be used by your competitors.
  2. Also, once registered as a stylized/design mark you can’t change the design or style of the mark. Companies often update their design and style elements to modernize them.

Thus, it’s is a rule of thumb that a standard character format affords a better protection.

A Styled/Design Mark works a bit differently.

IPfever_logo_example
JPfever_example

Let’s say IPfever registered a stylized trademark: After a few years, a website devoted to teaching Japanese language and culture dubs itself Japanese Fever, “JP fever” in short, and starts using this logo:.

Do you see any problem? Although they changed a letter, they look too similar. There’s likely an infringement case.

However, if IPfever were registered as standard character, it would’ve been a different story. Because “fever” in Japanese Fever can be considered as a descriptive word for passion and enthusiasm for Japanese culture, it likely has a leeway.

jpfever_example

But it should be noted that stylized/design marks have their own limitation. If Japanese Fever  , I say this one differs in style so much to escape from a potential trademark infringement claim.

You have to choose, but choose wisely.

You might say you would just register both standard character and design marks. Problem solved? Well, it’s not that simple.

You can’t claim “the coffee house” trademark for your coffee house because that’s what people call any coffee house. It’s reserved for everyone. But you may register this stylized/design mark.

the_coffee_house

You probably need to disclaim rights to the words, (meaning that others can literally use the same name) but it still protects you from something like this knock-off.

the_coffee_shop

So, figure out what’s the strength and weakness of your mark, and then choose wisely.

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Intellectual Property Trademark Trademark Examination

Trademark Office Action: how to respond

Office Action calls for a legal writing.

When there is problem with your trademark application, the Office will issue an OA.  There could be multiple instances of OA per application while many trademarks get registered without any.

Sometimes, a simple change to your application can fix the problem, so the only thing you need to is agreeing with the change. But often you must rebut the rejection with legal arguments. This provides you of an opportunity to clarify and strengthen your application (and the trademark), but a wrong response could render the trademark unenforceable or nominal.

You must understand the reason for rejection clearly and respond to every issue to the full extent. You might find it helpful to review similar OAs and corresponding responses from another applicants on the TSDR (Trademark Status & Document Retrieval), which is open to the public and FREE. Although you can borrow their legal argument and logic, you must apply them to your facts.

Sometimes it’s not a good idea to proceed with responding office actions. Use free consultation to figure out whether it’s a good idea or not. You may also get a rough idea about cost and timeline.

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Intellectual Property Trademark U.S. Trademark

You’ve got to “use” your trademark

Let’s take a look at an interesting story:

By the time Apple Inc. debuted iPhone in January 2007, the prefix “i” had already become a thing of Apple. The inauguration of iMac series dates back in 1998. In 2003, iPod was a mega hit.

Lesser known than Apple, however, there was a startup called InfoGear Technology Corporation, which developed an internet phone technology, called “iPhone.”

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Intellectual Property Trademark U.S. Trademark

For DIY TM Applicants: What’s a Strong tradeMark?

There is a “strong mark” and a “weak mark”. You don’t need to know all legal distinctions as to different types of marks, but you want to have a strong mark, right? Here’s a shortcut to get to the goal.

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Intellectual Property Trademark Trademark Application

Marketing Starts From Naming

Many low-end products tend to say exactly what it is. On the other hand, high-end products are very subtle. Have you ever bought a crappy good carefully wrapped inside a sophisticated package? Well, more likely than not you weren’t careful.

The thing is there is a tiny market for a fancy looking crappy product.

In other words, having a fancy name does rarely fly for a low-end product. You should name your product for what it is. However, that doesn’t prevent you from growing a great brand name.