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How Are Design Patents Different From Other Patents?

Design patents are a relatively recent type of patent that protects non-utility inventions, such as the creative or decorative elements of manufactured items.  Design patents usually apply to design elements of a thing that are non-functional, and thus not eligible for a utility patent, but that also wouldn’t necessarily be eligible for copyright or trademark protection.  In some cases, designs that may be eligible for design patent may also be eligible for copyright or trademark protection as well, but the design patent adds an extra layer of protection for the inventor seeking damages for infringement of the design. A design patent is frequently a good idea if you’ve invented a new design for some item that is distinctive and, in some way, helps distinguish the item as being uniquely made by you or your business.  They are often a way of gaining some measure of patent protection for items that otherwise can’t themselves be patented.  For example, furnishings such as bed frames and wardrobes can’t themselves be patented, but unique ornamentation on those furnishings could be the subject of a design patent.  Similarly, athletic shoes can’t be patented, but you could get a design patent for a unique pattern of treads on the rubber soles of athletic shoes.  Design patents don’t require a specification or claims as for utility patents.  The drawings of the design patent application essentially function as both the description and claims.  Since there are no written descriptions for the design, the drawings must be carefully crafted to depict both the design and the context in...

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What Do I Need to Apply for a Patent?

Most patent applications are for utility patents - inventions that have some functional use - and these applications usually have a specification, drawings, and claims. The specification is a legally complete description of the invention you are claiming.  The specification needs to fully describe all aspects of the invention that you’re claiming protection for and needs to sufficiently describe the application so that another person, who has a base-level understanding of the relevant technological art field, could replicate and make the invention.  The specification doesn’t have to be a technical white-paper or a thorough dissertation on every possible aspect of the invention – it just has to meet the legally required standards for disclosure of the invention. Drawings go hand-in-hand with the specification. Drawings are usually required to help the patent examiner understand the invention being described in the specification, and the specification needs to particularly describe what is depicted in the drawings. The claims, however, are the critical component.  Claims define the legal bounds of what you are claiming is your patentable invention.  They are somewhat like a fence around physical property so that anything inside the “fence” is your claimed patent territory, and anything outside the fence is not part of your claimed invention.  When someone steps over your fence into your property, they’re trespassing or “infringing” on your land.  When someone makes an invention that falls squarely within your claims, they’re infringing on your patent. The claims are also the most important part of the application for getting a patent grant.  The claims are the first thing the patent examiner looks at to...

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What Can I Get Patented?

Patents can generally be awarded for any novel and useful invention or improvement. “Useful” is a fairly minimal standard, and largely boils down to whether or not someone could read the patent and actually make the invention the patent discloses – it could be practically useless in real life, but so long as it’s possible to make and use the thing, it’s “useful.”  “Novel” is a legal definition found in the country’s patent laws and is also a fairly minimal standard.  Novelty simply requires that the invention, exactly as disclosed in your patent application, is not fully contained in a single published document, whether that’s another patent document, a journal article, a technical white paper or other documents. Patentable inventions can range from completely new and never-before-seen technology to a simple improvement in a well-known machine.  Patents can be granted for physical inventions, production processes, chemical compounds, software that improves computer functioning, and more. But it turns out some inventions don’t even have to be useful – the patent office also grants patents on non-utility designs.  A design patent can be granted for a new decorative and non-functional design, such as the “look” of a crystal lamp or of a hardwood furniture piece, and this helps prevent others from copying your unique design for your products. So why is it usually so hard to get a patent? Most patent applications fail because they fail the “obviousness” test.  Your exact invention may well not have ever been made or invented before, but it may also be an obvious variation...

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Protecting Your Rights Amidst the Mohican Greenway Corridor

Landowners in the Mohican Valley, Loudonville, Brinkhaven, and Greer areas may be affected by a potential new trail system that is currently being evaluated. This trail is slated to follow Wally Road and would affect parts of Ashland, Knox, and Holmes counties. A new trail is concerning for local landowners. Many of us are asking what rights we have when faced with a public trail system going through our property. If we have a property with a river running through, such as the Mohican River, what are our rights concerning the waterways and access to our land? The idea of increased traffic flow down a river that cuts through the private property can be alarming, as well. What follows are several situations where the public's enjoyment of land could affect and intersect with private property. Right-of-Ways for County Roads: One way that a trail could impact landowner's property is through already-existing roads. Trail systems can widen or alter the route of local roads. Ohio Revised Code Section 5553.03 requires county roads to be at least 30 feet wide, although they can be as narrow as twenty feet if certain conditions are met. The right-of-way of a township road includes both the road surface itself and as much of the land adjacent to the road as is necessary for the safe and efficient use of the road for actual travel and for incidental uses, which could include being broadened to add a bike trail or sidewalks. Roads can also be vacated and turned...

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Social Media and the Law

We are in a social media-driven day and age. On average, internet users spend about 2 hours and 22 minutes per day on social networking platforms. Saima Salim, How much time do you spend on social media? Research says 142 minutes per day. With such a significant amount of time spent on these sites, it is wise to be aware of some of the legal issues you could face. There are many aspects where social media and the law collide. Privacy First of all, consider the privacy of the information you post online (or the lack thereof). How often do you put something online and consider whether you would want a judge or prosecutor to view the evidence? Courts are seeing social media used in cases more and more often, especially in divorce cases. If you post something online, it is very possible that it can be used against you in court. Social media sites are built to collect data from you. That is one of their primary goals. They are fueled by companies who advertise to your specific needs and wants. They use a multitude of tricks to get you to give them information, and anyone – including the government – can be collecting this data from you. As the ABA eloquently put it, "In Europe, Canada, and other countries across the world, protection of each citizen's private information is considered to be a human right, secured by statute and enforced by the government and private causes of action. In...

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Finding the Right Fit When Searching for a Lawyer

Lawyers have solutions that can be close to “one size fits all” for simple matters, those solutions are only for the most basic of situations.Every nuance and detail of your situation, no matter how small you might think it is, can cause the recommended solution for your problem to change.This, among other reasons, is why it is so hard to compare attorneys based on price point. Some attorneys will attempt to shoehorn you into a solution that may not be the best for your situation, but it is “low cost.”We have witnessed this when so-called “Trust Mills” come through town.They charge a set price, and they have never met anyone who doesn’t need a Trust.The thing is, we have met plenty of people that didn’t need a Trust.The Trust was overkill for their situation, not set up correctly, and in the end a waste of their money. Legal services should be like a good pair of shoes.They should fit well and last a long time, or at least until your situation changes and you need a different pair.One size fits all solutions in legal services are like one size fits all clothing—they are made in bulk, out of the cheapest material, all to benefit the manufacturer.Yes, it is cheap, but it wasn’t made with you in mind.Having a custom-tailored solution takes time and getting to know you as a person.Sure, at the end of the day, it may be more expensive, but it fits you and won’t wear out too quickly. So if...

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5 Questions to Ask When Looking for an Attorney

Finding an attorney adds stress to an already stressful situation. So, when you realize you need an attorney how can you be sure that you find the right one? 1. Does the attorney have a reputation for being able to handle your kind of matter? The single greatest factor in most people’s search for an attorney is personal recommendations. Ask your friends, family, neighbors, pastor, or other service providers who they recommend. Then ask them why they recommend that attorney. Is it because they got the job done quickly? Did the attorney keep them informed? What exactly was it that made them recommend that attorney to you. After looking for personal recommendations, search out the attorney on the internet and on social media. What are other people saying about the attorney? Do they advertise the kind of work you need? Have they written articles on the work you need? Using a combination of personal recommendations and online reviews can help lead you to an attorney that may fit your needs. 2. Does the attorney listen to your situation before recommending a solution? Once you are found an attorney you need to meet with them. This is usually in person, but it can also be done over the phone or via video chat. When you are meeting with the attorney the first time, who is doing most of the talking? That first meeting should start with you doing most of the talking and the attorney asking questions. Every situation is unique, and if the attorney doesn’t take time to...

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