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Does Today’s Innovation Demand IP Protection?

— February 29, 2024

The best antidote to piracy, infringement, and theft of innovation is the strong protection provided by an IP attorney.  

Today’s innovation doesn’t reside within the confines of one sector of industry. It is found in the research lab that produces software-driven lasers for prototype testing. It is seen in hybrid cars and crop hydration systems. It is discovered in the 27-year-old who builds an air-driven motor out of used vacuum cleaner parts. Today’s innovation is fluid and momentous and, because this fluidity travels across all sectors of industry, the question of intellectual property (IP) protection is one of significant relevance. 

Does today’s innovation demand IP protection? Undoubtedly, yes. Before examining the reasons for intellectual property protection, the meaning of the term “intellectual property” should be clarified as much as possible. What exactly does the term include? Although it may be helpful to offer a defined list, there is no predetermined ending to the list of intellectual property because there is no end to innovation and what it may produce. However, a succinct definition of the term “intellectual property” includes patents for inventions, trademarks that protect brand names, logos and symbols, and copyrights for original written, artistic and musical works. These intellectual property descriptions cover broad categories, with hundreds of sub-categories listed beyond.

An IP Attorney Provides Sustainable IP Protection

Broad-based IP protection creates a significant boundary that is a strong deterrent to parties trying to infringe, steal, or use intellectual property that is not their own. Unfortunately, as innovation has expanded in recent years, so have attempts to steal IP, robbing stakeholders of the earnings they deserve. A highly-experienced IP attorney is now more crucial to the long-term protection and sustainability of innovative creations than ever before, especially in light of the permeability of digital transactions and applications that create an open door for thieves who let themselves in. 

How Easily Can Someone Obtain a Patent or Trademark?

The advantages of engaging an IP attorney may not be fully recognized until one attempts to patent an invention or trademark a brand logo. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website deters even the most ardent believer in self-service, as it contains multiple dashboards with instructions, forms, applications, and lists of related requirements for the registration of an innovation. According to the USPTO, “Preparing a patent application and engaging in the USPTO proceedings to obtain the patent requires knowledge of patent law and USPTO procedures. It also requires knowledge of the scientific or technical matters involved in the particular invention.”1 This statement clarifies that one should know patent law and scientific or technical matters if one wants to succeed in obtaining a patent. This verbiage explains why an IP attorney can succeed in obtaining a patent, trademark, or copyright and why self-service is not an option for most individuals to consider.  

There are multiple roadblocks to presenting an innovation for a patent, each of which the IP attorney can address. In the first step, an exhaustive search for any similar innovations must be concluded to establish that the innovation is unique and first-in-kind. When the potential for a patent is found to possibly exist, multiple forms and images are submitted to support the initial claim or claims. An experienced IP attorney will have the ability to fully support the claims of the innovation during the patent process. After submitting an innovation for patenting, there may be multiple rounds of denials by the USPTO which require appeals by the IP attorney. This process may take several months to years to complete. 

Trademarking a brand image or logo involves a rigorous online search to define the trademark by type, most often found in a sea of technical product classifications. After narrowing that search, one must locate the subsets of each classification and proceed with images, titles, and forms to fit specifications. Again, the engagement of a qualified IP attorney will pave the way to successfully submit the request for a trademark and receive one.

The Process of IP Protection

Seal of the United States Patent and Trademark Office; image by U.S. government, public domain.
Seal of the United States Patent and Trademark Office; image by U.S. government, public domain.

As critically vital as registering patents, copyrights and trademarks may be, an experienced IP attorney will fully devote time and energy to protecting and defending innovation. In some cases, the defense of the innovation will become the priority effort of the IP attorney, rather than the patent registration or trademarking of the innovation itself. For example, the patent for a new consumer product may be sold as “first-in-kind” and offer a unique value proposition for the consumer. A copycat product manufacturer uses similar claims and infringes on the patent by including the patented innovation in the copycat product. In effect, the copycat manufacturer is attempting to steal from the patent owner by enticing buyers away from the authentic product. The IP attorney will step in at this point to defend the patent. This sometimes leads to litigation to recoup the funds and cover present and future damages, with the strong likelihood that the outcome will favor the patent-holder.   

Preventing IP Infringement and Theft

An IP attorney also offers intellectual property protection by placing contractual language into agreements that restrict the use or limit the exposure of the innovation. Overseeing the licensing agreement offers the IP attorney a good opportunity to vet the details thoroughly before signing. The music industry is a highly porous example of how companies may easily be subject to copyright infringement. Napster, a company formed in 1999, focused on the concept of “shared music” and consumers took full advantage of the concept. Millions of users illegally copied and freely shared music and it wasn’t long before Napster found itself in court, facing IP attorneys from the music industry. Napster lost every case it faced.2 

IP Protection for Today’s Innovation…And Tomorrow’s Idea

Because crucial terminology and detail must be included in licensing agreements, companies that may face ownership issues will want to consider the protection of an IP attorney in thoroughly reviewing all agreements, including those that may or may not be directly connected to IP protection. In addition to procuring copyrights, trademarks, and patents, IP attorneys will be diligent in the oversight of all aspects of rights throughout the lifetime of each innovation. This extends to examining competitor products, reviewing digital applications, and searching for brands that have infringed on the valid trademarks of major companies. 

Does today’s innovation demand protection? Because innovation includes what is known and what will be known, IP protection will always be the center of the issue.  The best antidote to piracy, infringement, and theft of innovation is the strong protection provided by an IP attorney.  



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