The internet is such a special place. It makes life so easy. I know that there are a slew of attorneys who existed before the time of the internet, and on-line legal research, but I am so glad that I did not have to be one of them. I am grateful that I did not have to know that kind of grueling legal practice. This is so much more fun!
I have an example, of course. A client of mine got sued for patent infringement for a product they were manufacturing in China and importing to the U.S. It looked similar (not identical) to a design patent and the corresponding product that was sold here. No cease and desist letter was sent and so, really, the business had no warning prior to getting served.
When I initially read the complaint, I went straight to the Wayback Machine website. Basically, the Wayback Machine is a useful library of internet sites through time – shown month by month. And, it is a free resource.
I entered the plaintiff’s domain name. It had a listing of the way their website had looked every month since it came into existence. I found the link for their site 3 months before their patent was filed and saw that they were selling the product represented in the patent.
Although this is a complicated patent rule, and I could not possibly get into all its intricacies in this post, there is patent law affectionately called the One Year Bar. The gist of the rule is that the quid pro quo for receiving a monopoly (a patent) from the U.S. government is that you cannot get a patent if you have been using or selling the invention for more than a year before you file a patent application.
So, the bottom line is that the plaintiff’s patent was a fraud. They were selling the product for more than one year before they filed their patent application. Result: we win, they lose. There is no patent infringement when a patent is invalid.
There are so many other internet uses that are applicable to intellectual property that can also be taken advantage of by a layperson. Let’s say you are thinking of starting a new business or rolling out a new product line – why not perform a simple Google search before calling an attorney to see if the trademark you want to use is not already being used in commerce by someone else? You could even go to the United States Patent and Trademark Office or the Canadian Intellectual Property Office websites and do a search there for your potential trademark.
Or you can do some wonderful preliminary patent searches on the very user-friendly Google patent search engine. You can check out your competitor’s patents, download them and maybe even get ideas on how to design around them.
Isn’t it better to call an attorney once armed with knowledge and knowing exactly what is out there? Before you call me, or someone like me, why not use the power of the internet to educate yourself and get comfortable with the same search engines that I rely on for searching and advising my clients?
About the Author
Intellectual Property expert Tina Loza has successfully defended and protected Fortune 500 companies, small businesses, and start-ups. Tina Loza is an Intellectual Property management attorney and the Managing Partner of Loza & Loza, LLP, a specialized legal practice with offices throughout Southern California, that supports clients worldwide with patent, trademark, copyright, and Internet law needs. For a free consultation or more information contact Loza & Loza, LLP.