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We field calls every week from enthusiastic inventors wanting to patent their ideas. "It'll sell millions; we'll make millions!" But how to get from invention to riches, they really don't know. "Angel Investors" throwing out seven figure checks, maybe.

Reality check.

Patents = Business. In business you gotta pay to play the game, and there is never a net to catch your fall. When you spend a sizable sum of money to get an idea patented, there is no guarantee that you will recoup your loss. In fact, unless you are willing to do a great deal of the legwork yourself, there is low probability that you will ever see a profit from your invention.


Patents = Business. When you own a patent or are patent pending you own a business startup. Are you up for it? You've two basic routes to take:

1) You plan to make and sell the invention yourself, which requires a business license, trademarks, marketing, storefront, web presence, letterheads, business cards, etc.

2) You plan to sell or license the invention to a manufacturer, which requires negotiating with sophisticated business parties. Manufacturers, like most businesses, are accustomed to negotiating with other businesses, not with individuals. To improve your chances at success in licensing negotiations, you need a good idea, a well-written patent or patent application, an operable prototype or mockup, and a well polished written and verbal "pitch" that exhibits your business acumen. In short, the more you look like a business the better your odds at getting a foot in the door and pulling down a patent licensing deal. Little things go a long way when trying to look like a competent business, things like a business license (WA State sole proprietorship with trade name is $20), a catchy product trademark that can also be licensed to the manufacturer (Federal trademark is usually under $500, WA State under $200), letterheads and business cards (under $100), a simple webpage, even if it's a Facebook page, showing some product photos and contact information (under $100), and a good conservative grey suit.


ArmillaryIP doesn't just write patents. We help inventors negotiate the rocky road that starts with a patent idea and progresses to a small business startup selling or licensing a cool new product. We can help you get the trademarks and the business licensing you need to be professional, and to assist you in product licensing negotiations with manufacturers. We can also get you in contact with high quality website creation and hosting professionals. You're on your own in finding a good grey suit. Check out our reasonable rates that are affordable for individuals and small businesses, just like ourselves.

 

No matter the medium of the art, copyright is granted to the artist the moment that art is completed. So why bother with the paperwork and expense of registering your art with the U.S. Copyright Office?

Are you serious about protecting your art? What will you do when someone rips off the song you wrote, or posts your artwork on a website without your consent. Are you going to send the infringer a nasty letter filled with legal rhetoric, a letter that has no teeth because to back up that rhetoric you need access to the courts, and to file a copyright infringement complaint in court you gotta have your art registered.

It's a zero sum game. When I tell clients this they often respond with "but I don't want money, I just want them to stop using my art."

It has been my experience that most letters sent claiming copyright infringement of unregistered art are ignored by infringers, although if the art has been posted online a letter sent to the website's ISP might succeed in getting it taken down. Having copyright registration for the art, and sending that registration with the letter dramatically increases the odds that the infringer will actually comply with the cease & desist.

So why not wait until someone steals your art, and then spend a little money for copyright registration? The answer is simple - without prior copyright registration you can't afford to sue an infringer in court. Even if you win your attorney fees will likely be greater than any money damages awarded, and the small money damages provide little deterrent to the infringer. This result is nothing but a Pyrrhic victory.

On the other hand, having prior copyright registration grants the copyright holder not only actual damages (dollar amounts often small), but also the opportunity for special damages up to $150,000, plus attorney fees. Now we're talking an actual victory for the copyright holder.
 
So now are you serious about protecting your art? Copyright registration is a real deterrent to would-be infringers. It's easy and inexpensive insurance.

 

Our trademark clients seem to show some confusion on the specimen requirement for trademark registration. When filing for trademark registration, the USPTO requires a specimen (an example) of your trademark in use. What qualifies as an adequate specimen is determined by what your business sells.

If your business sells goods, a proper specimen can be a photo taken of the label, stamp, or stencil clearly showing your trademark on the product. Advertising materials (ads, banners, flyers) are generally not accepteptable to the USPTO.

If your business offers services, there are no tangible products that have labels. Photos of advertising materials for services you offer are acceptable specimens, as are letterheads, business cards, and website screenshots.

ArmillaryIP's online trademark application form makes the registration painless. After you provide basic information on your business and the goods / services offered, you can upload photos to meet the USPTO's specimen requirement. Our price for trademark registration and our one day service are great values - only $125, plus the gov't fee. Start here.

 

A long-time client called to discuss filing a very unique product trademark for his newly patented invention. The invention is off the drawing board, with a functional and fairly polished prototype, but the inventor wants to make the product more appealing to manufacturers in licensing negotiations. Can he get trademark registration for a product not yet in production? No, but he can reserve a trademark for a product anticipated to soon be in production.

An Intent-To-Use trademark application is what we plan to file. The application and government fee will reserve the trademark for six months, time enough to get the product into production. If there is further delay in production, additional six month extentions may also be filed. The advantage to the client is that his application filing date (December 2013) will be used as the "First Use" date, which may beat out potential competitors for that unique trademark, even though product production and marketing won't be until mid 2014.

 

Two common questions have been raised in recent communications with clients regarding their new music albums. The first question: What is the proper Copyright Office form to use when registering a recorded song or collection of songs found on an album? When filing online one should choose "sound recording", and when filing with a paper form one should use Form SR. Form SR will provide copyright protection for the recorded performance, as well as the underlying music, whereas Form PA will protect only that particular recorded performance.

The second question: Can one copyright registration (and one fee) cover the whole album, or does each song need individual copyright protection (multiple fees)? In many cases the answer is only one copyright registration is required, with the disclosure of each band member's contribution (music, lyrics, or both) to each song. On the copyright registration form, the album name is listed as the "Title of Work Being Registered", and the individual song titles will then be listed as "Contents Title".

And don't forget copyright registration for the album cover art, which will protect not only the visual design or artwork found on front and back covers of the music album, but also the printed lyrics that may be included inside.


More information on registering recorded music is included in Copyright Office Circular 56, found here.

 

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