Intellectual Property Protection
Patents, Trademarks, Copyright
Intellectual Property Law in Flemington?
Yes indeed. And very important that we have a good lawyer here to deal with these issues in this day of the importance and value of ideas, inventions, creation, writings, patents, trademarks, and especially in the age of the internet.
My interest in the field started many years ago, even before I got to law school. I took pictures for a local newspaper when I was in high school. I remember my first ten dollar check in the 1950s. The check came with a form that talked about first time rights, first use rights, and ownership of the photo. When I was in college I sold a photo to Life Magazine. Their check came with a letter that said they had bought exclusive rights for first time publication for 90 days. After that they had no rights in the photo. If they used it in the 90 days they would pay an additional fee.
When I got to Cornell Law School I met a professor who had been an advisor to Readers Digest. He offered a seminar on Intellectual Property. I had to take it to confirm some independent research I had done and to learn more. I learned more about my rights in photos I had taken than had ever been explained by the buyers of those pictures. Of course they had their own view and interest and explained rights from their viewpoint.
Fast forward to the early days of my law practice. I had a client who asked me to form a corporation for him. He planned to compound vitamins and market them to women. He was looking at a market that was very large and a market that seems to be over looked. He had arranged for the product to be produced. He was in the stage of buying extensive and expensive advertising in the major ladies magazines at the time. I asked where he had gotten the name for his products and the proposed name for his business entity? He said he and his wife and a few friends had come up with it at a picnic.
I asked him if anyone else was using the name or anything close to it. He said they were not. One of his friends was in the industry and would know if that were the case. I asked if he planned to trademark the name and otherwise protect it. He said he had been advised by a friend that it would be protected because he would be the first to use the name. I suggested he have a search conducted and get a trademark registration through a lawyer (I remembered something from that seminar). He said he did not want to spend the money. His was a new company, he did not have money to waste and he was comfortable going forward without a trademark registration at the time.
The name was available through the State of New Jersey for a new corporation. I told him that did not guarantee protection in the name. He nevertheless wanted to go forward without the costs of getting a trademark ó and he did.
His advertising appeared about three weeks later. One week after that he got three letters from three different companies that had obtained trademark rights in their states, or at the federal level, or they claimed that they had the right to use the name he had chosen and he did not. He was told in these letters if he went ahead and used the name he would be sued. We sent him to an intellectual property lawyer in one of the big firms in the state. There he was told that he indeed did not have the right to use the name he was using. A simple search provided that information. If he had ordered that search in the first place he would have known of the problem and could have used a name that was available to him. It seems that his friend in the industry was right, in that the name was not being used locally, but one big company had protected the name and was sitting on it. Another had used it in a limited market. He was out of luck. And he had spent a lot of money advertising a name he could not use.
I have had several other experiences that have instructed me in the importance of protecting intellectual property. One involved a client who obtained an 800 number that brought him business, but also brought him litigation. Fortunately he managed to settle the law suit brought against him in a reasonable way and he made some money from having that number. But he would have done much better if he had searches to back up his position and could have done much better if he had protected him interests.
Another example involved a client who bough a business and the name that came with it. The name was important. Because the seller had not protected the name my client was able to negotiate a reduction in the price of the business because of the chance he was taking in relation to the value of the name. There are many other examples. I have learned to raise the issue, with clients starting out in business, of the value and protection of the intellectual property interests they have or seek.
I am delighted to have found Harris Wolin to work with in this field. He brings with him the big corporation and big law firm experience that he has acquired over the years. I am impressed with how responsive he is and with his depth of knowledge. Even when he is flying to Japan, or some other far off place, he stays in touch through the modern technology that he always carries with him. He is a young man of energy that you will enjoy working with too.