Attorney at Law Magazine's Minneapolis Intellectual Property Local Legal Authority.
Mr. Sawicki and Mr. James L. Young are shareholders at Westman, Champlin & Koehler. Pete and Jim both have over 30 years of experience obtaining, licensing, evaluating and enforcing patents. Each has also developed an extensive practice regarding the clearance, registration, licensing and enforcement of trademarks. They work closely with clients to understand their values and business plans and provide customized and effective strategies for intellectual property asset procurement, growth, management and protection.
The cost of developing a new product or service and bringing it to market for any business (whether an established or a new business) is significant. It typically involves the dedication of substantial resources in terms of time and money for product development and testing, manufacturing, equipment costs and marketing expenses.
While the greatest form of flattery is copying, when a competitor can copy your product without recourse, much of that investment in the product or service is lost, and the competitor is able to introduce a new product without having to incur the risks and costs of product development. Accordingly, providing legal “exclusivity” for a new product can provide a significant advantage to you. Such exclusivity is available via intellectual property.
Our intellectual property laws are designed to protect creative efforts such as inventions, designs, brands, artistic works, literary works and trade secrets. Intellectual property rights allow creators to benefit from their work and investment in those creations. Intellectual property rights are transferable such by contract, so the owner of those rights may not necessarily be the creator, but rather an employer of the creator or owner by assignment.
Many product and service offerings involve creations (in one form or another) that may qualify for protection under more than one form of intellectual property protection.
There are three types of U.S. patents: 1) utility patents for inventions like chemical compositions, machines, products and processes; 2) design patents for inventions related to the ornamental appearance of a manufactured item; and 3) plant patents for inventions related to asexually reproduced plans. A patent gives the owner the right to exclude others from certain activities, namely, making, selling, using, offering for sale, exporting components to be assembled into an infringing device outside the United States, and importing a product made by a process covered by a U.S. patent. Our patent laws are exclusively federal; there are no state patents or state patent laws.
A trademark is a word, name, logo, slogan or other device that indicates the source or origin of goods or services and is capable of distinguishing those goods or services from the goods or services of others. Federal and state trademark laws create frameworks for registration of marks, and for protecting the owners of trademark rights from infringement by third parties (where the use by another would be likely to cause confusion, or to cause mistake, or to deceive the relevant consuming public). The best form of protection for a trademark is federal registration.
U.S. copyright law prevents others from benefiting from your creative work without your permission. Copyright protects the expression of ideas in many forms, such as a script, song, writing, computer code, artwork or photograph. Copyright rights spring into existence as soon as the work is “fixed in a tangible medium of expression.” Copyright gives the owner certain exclusive rights, such as controlling reproduction of the protected work (including the creation of works derived from the work), publishing the work, publicly displaying the work or performing the work, and provides a legal framework for a copyright owner to financially benefit from the work while prohibiting others from doing so. Registration of a copyright gives the owner access to significant legal benefits, but it is not necessary to obtain a copyright registration in order to own copyright rights. Our copyright laws are exclusively federal; there are no state copyrights or state copyright laws.
Many types of confidential information can qualify for trade secret protection, even information that does not meet patentability standards or is not copyrightable in the United States. Trade secret law can protect ideas, whereas copyright law only protects the expression of an idea. Trade secret protection can last indefinitely, as long as appropriate measures are taken to protect the trade secret information. For these reasons, trade secret protection may be the best choice (and in some cases the only choice) for protecting certain types of intellectual capital. State and federal trade secrets laws provide a legal framework to deal with the unauthorized taking and use of sensitive business information.
Minneapolis intellectual property attorneys represent our domestic and international clients in Minnesota and nationally, as well as before the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Some of the duties that intellectual property lawyers in Minneapolis undertake for our clients include: