What Are the Most Important IP Protections for U.S. Businesses?

A recent study reveals that most U.S. businesses view trademarks and trade secrets as the most important forms of intellectual property (IP) protection. The study was conducted by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U.S. Census Bureau as part of their Business R&D and Innovation Survey (BRDIS).

According to a NSF press statement, the survey polled a nationally representative sample of about 40,000 companies, including companies in both manufacturing and non-manufacturing industries. Here’s what else they had to say:

Fifteen percent of all businesses reported trademarks as either very important or somewhat important to their business (6 percent said trademarks were very important, while 9 percent said they were somewhat important).
Fourteen percent of surveyed businesses reported trade secrets as very important or somewhat important (6 percent and 8 percent respectively).
Twelve percent of those surveyed identified copyrights as important.
Five percent of respondents indicated that design patents are important, while four percent viewed utility patents as an important form of IP protection.
“Much of today’s business derives its competitive advantage from the ability to protect and exploit exclusive rights over investments in intellectual property,” said John Jankowski, lead author of the report in NSF’s National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. “Hence, IP protection is a persistent and recurrent concern of businesses.”

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USPTO Announces Reforms after Examiner Golfed on the Job

The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) recently announced that it would reform its workplace practices after it was discovered that patent examiners golfed while supposedly on the job.

The revelation about the golfing appeared in a review of the USPTO’s time and attendance policies by the Department of Commerce’s Office of the Inspector General.

The report followed an earlier internal report by the USPTO itself. The draft version of the internal report said that patent examiners “can work inconsistently throughout the year, and even fail to be present at work, with little or no consequences.” However, the final version of the internal report said that investigators were “not able to reach a conclusion” about work-time abuses.

According to the Inspector General’s report, “Inspector A” was authorized to telecommute. The report found that he committed at least 730 hours’ worth of time and attendance abuse and was paid about $25,000 for time he did not actually work in Fiscal Year 2014 – about 43% of the hours he reported.

The investigation was launched when two supervisory patent examiners found copies of an anonymous letter claiming that Examiner A came into the office only at the end of the quarter and that his work was “garbage.”
Examiner A was joined on his worktime golf outings by at least one USPTO co-worker.

The Inspector General referred the matter the US Attorney’s office, which declined to prosecute Examiner A.

When she was still deputy-director of the USPTO, current director Michelle K. Lee told members of Congress that fraudulent time and attendance reporting would be met with appropriate disciplinary action.
Reforms to combat telecommuting abuse at the USPTO include:
• Annual required training on time and attendance rules
• Identifying the causes for attendance misconduct
• Forming employee teams to combat the problem

Many patent applicants are frustrated by the extremely slow pace of the patent examination process. It is not clear whether lax workplace policies may play a role in examination delays, but with these reforms the USPTO is showing acute sensitivity to any indication that its examiners are less than diligent.

What Are the Most Important IP Protections for U.S. Businesses?

A recent survey reveals that most U.S. businesses view trademarks and trade secrets as the most important forms of intellectual property (IP) protection. The study was conducted by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U.S. Census Bureau as part of their Business R&D and Innovation Survey (BRDIS).

According to a NSF press statement, the survey polled a nationally representative sample of about 40,000 companies, including companies in both manufacturing and non-manufacturing industries. Here’s what else they had to say:

  • Fifteen percent of all businesses reported trademarks as either very important or somewhat important to their business (6 percent said trademarks were very important, while 9 percent said they were somewhat important).
  • Fourteen percent of surveyed businesses reported trade secrets as very important or somewhat important (6 percent and 8 percent respectively).
  • Twelve percent of those surveyed identified copyrights as important.
  • Five percent of respondents indicated that design patents are important, while four percent viewed utility patents as an important form of IP protection.

“Much of today’s business derives its competitive advantage from the ability to protect and exploit exclusive rights over investments in intellectual property,” said John Jankowski, lead author of the report in NSF’s National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. “Hence, IP protection is a persistent and recurrent concern of businesses.”

Is Western Media Responsible for China’s Poor IP Reputation?

China’s piracy problem clearly impacts its intellectual property reputation on the world stage. However, Tian Lipu, head of China’s State Intellectual Property Office, also believes that western media may also be responsible.
In recent remarks to reporters, Tian stated: “Speaking honestly, there is a market. People use and buy pirated goods. [But] to a large extent, China’s intellectual property rights protection image has been distorted by Western media.”
“China’s image overseas is very poor. As soon as people hear China, they think of piracy and counterfeiting. We don’t deny (this problem), and we are continuing to battle against it,” he added.
Tian contends that the Western media is compounding China’s image as lax on IP oversight by only reporting on the problem, but not the steps that the country is taking to solve it.
“For example, China is the world’s largest payer for patent rights, for trademark rights, for royalties, and one of the largest for buying real software. We pay the most. People rarely talk about this, but it really is a fact. Our government offices, our banks, our insurance companies, our firms… the software is all real,” Tian noted.
Tian also highlighted that large companies like Apple are willing to manufacture their products in China. “Of the goods made for Apple, most are made in China. Once Apple’s brand is added to it and it is exported to the United States its value doubles,” he said. “This could only happen because China’s intellectual property rights environment sets foreign investors at ease allowing them to come to China to manufacture.”
As ZDNet reports, China has made strides to strengthen IP protections in recent years. According to the 2011 BSA global software piracy study, China’s software piracy rate fell to 77 percent, compared to 92 percent in 2003. Although the rate still exceeds the global average of 42 percent, it represents a significant step in the right direction. Nonetheless, there is work to be done. The International Intellectual Property Alliance also estimated that U.S. companies lost more $3.5 billion to pirated software in China last year.

Want Test Your IP Knowledge? USPTO Releases Updated Tool

Understanding your intellectual rights can be a key business advantage. If you have ever wanted to test your own knowledge of intellectual property, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has just the tool.

The agency recently released an updated beta version of its web-based IP Awareness Assessment Tool. Like its predecessor, the new assessment tool aims to help manufacturers, small businesses, entrepreneurs and independent inventors easily assess their IP knowledge. Users answer a comprehensive set of questions regarding IP, after which the tool provides a set of training resources tailored to specifically identified needs.

“This Administration knows that American entrepreneurs have always focused on the next great idea that will grow our economy, create jobs and drive U.S. global competition,” said former Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Acting Director of the USPTO Teresa Stanek Rea. “The IP Awareness Assessment Tool will help educate independent inventors and small businesses on the intellectual property protections available to them as they seek to turn their ideas into reality and bring them to market.”

The tool is available on USPTO’s website at www.uspto.gov/inventors/assessment/.

WIPO Survey: High Costs of IP Disputes Make ADR an Attractive Alternative

A recent survey by the World Intellectual Property Organization highlights that IP rights holders are increasingly concerned about the high costs of disputes. As a result, they are increasingly looking to alternative dispute resolution.

The survey examined the practices and motivation of almost 400 survey respondents from over 60 countries, and assessed their current use of ADR to resolve technology-related disputes. According to the WIPO, respondents hailed from all across the globe (Europe, North America, Asia, South America, Oceania, the Caribbean and Central America, and Africa, in order of number of responses received) and worked for a number of different entities, including law firms, corporations, research organizations and universities, and government bodies.

Below are some of the findings of note, as detailed by the WIPO:

  • Costs: Respondents incurred significantly higher costs in court litigation than in arbitration and mediation. The legal costs of court litigation in home jurisdictions amounted on average to USD 475,000, and the legal costs of foreign court litigation to slightly over USD 850,000. Meanwhile, 91 percent of respondents stated that costs of mediation typically did not exceed USD 100,000. Arbitration cost on average just over USD 400,000.
  • § Time: Court litigation in home jurisdictions also took longer, taking approximately three years. Arbitration took on average slightly more than one year and mediation was typically concluded within eight months.
  • Frequency: More than 90 percent of respondents executed agreements with parties from other jurisdictions, with more than a quarter indicating that some 60 percent of their agreements involved parties from other jurisdictions. In the area of patents, 80 percent of respondents concluded agreements involving parties from other jurisdictions concerning technology patented in at least two countries.
  • Priorities: Respondents identified costs, followed, in close connection, by time, as their number one priority when negotiating a dispute process. Enforceability ranked as a further consideration among users of court litigation and arbitration clauses. Factors following at some distance included quality of outcome, neutral forum, confidentiality, and desire for a business solution.

 

IP Industry Cracking Down on Scammers

Trademark and patent holders are frequently targeted by scams, often in the form of official-looking correspondence. Some companies promise to protect your patent in foreign countries, while others claims that you have an unpaid invoice for trademark registration services.

Many of the mailings are misleading because they use language, formatting and other identifying features that suggest the sender is an official government agency. I frequently field calls from concerned clients who have received unsolicited offers for patent and trademark services.  My standard advice is if someone requests money and it is not from my firm, it is probably a scam.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and other industry groups frequently issue warnings about these fraudulent solicitations; however, new scams seem to pop up every few months. To put these companies out of business for good, a New York intellectual property law firm is pursuing legal action in federal court.

The suit against Patent & Trademark Agency LLC and its principal owner, Armens Organesjans, alleges that the company seeks to confuse trademark owners into purchasing services under the false color of authority. The claims include unfair competition, false advertising and tortious interference with prospective economic relations.

As highlighted in the complaint, Patent & Trademark Agency LLC’s website includes a statement that they are not lawyers and do not provide legal advice; however, its Terms, Conditions and Use Agreement state the opposite: “By accepting these terms you specifically and irrevocably authorize [Patent & Trademark Agency] to conduct negotiations and act on your behalf with any party needed in order to renew or register your trademark.”

The complaint further alleges that the company falsely states that “the Patent & Trademark Agency is the nation’s premier trademark registration and renewal service.” In reality, the USPTO lists the company among entities that have been the subject of complaints regarding fraudulent solicitations.

Last year, the same New York IP firm sued USA Trademark Enterprises Inc. on similar grounds. As a result of the lawsuit, the company was permanently barred from engaging in intellectual property-related activities in the United States.