By Shantel Hanna
Intellectual property is a creative spark that can change the world: from complicated software algorithms, to hip hop music, to popular (and not so popular) screenplays, to building design and the engineered materials that make them, there is seemingly an endless wellspring of possibilities to draw from.
Protecting those ideas has become paramount in a world where copycat manufacturing and nefarious business practices are at an all time high. Consider why Apple so secretly guards its phone and computer designs and you’ll have a cursory understanding of what businesses should consider when developing new technologies or applications.
Melbourne-based Widerman Malek, PA, is a national law firm that works with businesses and individuals seeking to protect their creative ideas and they take pride in counseling clientele with a community-centered approach. Attorneys at the firm work to provide an easy-to-understand, common sense approach for their clientele’s complex legal issues.
Scott Widerman, J.D., delivers a full range of litigation in areas of practice including: corporate litigation, civil litigation, bankruptcy, entertainment, and land use for leading businesses throughout Florida. He graduated from the University of Central Florida in 1995 and continued his education at Barry University School of Law, where he graduated in 2002. Scott is admitted to practice law by the Florida Bar Association and the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida.
Mark Malek, J.D., is a registered patent attorney and admitted to practice before the United States Patent and is Trademark Office. Malek attended the University of Orlando to obtain his MBA in 1999 and later earned his law degree from Barry in 2002. He provides legal representation and counsels inventors and businesses on various intellectual property strategies.
What is ‘Intellectual’ Property?
The firm’s 21 attorneys practice law in a total of 27 different areas including government contracts, patents, UAS/Drone, construction law, corporate and business, trademarks, and others. Intellectual property law represents one of the rm’s niche areas of practice.
The scope of intellectual property falls under three main categories: patents, copyrights and trademarks. There is also trade dress, which refers to the characteristics or visual appearance of a product, such as a Coca-Cola bottle. Any type of infringement, such as using a logo that looks signi cantly like that of a well-known company (even if it is to sell a different type of product), could result in a cease and desist letter and possible litigation.
This demonstrates why it is important to protect your intellectual property – to prevent others from stealing your idea and making a pro t from it. According to Malek, the value in patents is “the right to tell other people ‘This is my space. You can’t come into this space because I have protection from the U.S. Government.’”
Malek added, “It has to be novel, brand new, and it can’t be obvious. In the patent world that means, (if) I take someone’s Invention A and their Invention B – and they’re related – and combine those exact things, would I come to your invention? That would be obvious. It’s di cult to show obviousness, but it’s out there.” However, just having the idea for a product does not guarantee a patent.
Research Before Counsel
Of course, there are a few steps a hopeful inventor can do before seeking counsel: researching your invention to see if a similar patent has already been issued might answer your own question before you ever need to hire an attorney. A rule of thumb: Whatever you do, don’t assume that someone else hasn’t already created what you created.
While research can be vital and save you a few dollars, submitting your patent or trademark request before consulting with an attorney is hardly the smartest choice. They can provide you with vital information regarding patents so that you’re crystal clear about what is required to le your patent.
Hundred of thousands of patent applications are made in the U.S. each year, and millions have been issued. That means it’s very unlikely that all have made it to market. “Just because it’s not sold at Lowe’s or Home Depot doesn’t mean someone hasn’t led a patent on it [but never got it to market],” Malek said. “They could be waiting for you to get to market and just nail you.”
Seek Expert Consultation
Mark Warzecha J.D., an associate attorney at the firm who specializes in copyrights, trademarks, and intellectual property litigation and licensing, provides advice and counseling to business owners with the hope of saving them time and grief during the application process.
If they tell Warzecha they don’t want to spend the few hundred dollars to do the comprehensive search, he has a simple answer: “The No. 1 asset your company has right now is this name. If a year from now, you spend X amount of dollars promoting that name for a year, and then you nd out someone has superior rights to that name, guess what? You just lost all that money, and you’ve got to start all over again. And you may have already labeled a half-a- million dollars worth of products.” In a case like this, you’ve basically just paid to promote someone else’s company.
The firm has over a dozen lawyers who specialize in intellectual property rights. And, surprisingly, many of the firm’s patent attorneys didn’t start in the legal eld, and they believe they’re better for it. “This is what we do,” Malek said. “This is all we do. It’s very specialized patent attorneys that have to have a science background. Most all of us in this o ce on the patent side are engineers. I was a civil and environmental engineer. Many of us are second career. Patent law is what we did after engineering,” he said.
“We’re very cognizant that, in this economy, people want to put every dollar they have toward their end product, to producing product, to generating income,” Warzecha added. “But protection of your intellectual property assets is producing products and income, and people don’t seem to grasp that. Doing your research, doing the groundwork, securing your intellectual property assets, that’s really putting money towards your bottom line.”