Intellectual Property Anniversaries

Ten Years! It’s a long time. Ten years is the entire initial term for a trademark registration and half the life of a granted utility patent. For a marriage, 10 years can be a milestone. According to one internet source (www.CreditDonkey.com), about 70% of U.S. married couples make it to their 10th anniversary (we were sort of surprised by this, thinking it would be a lower percentage).

As a society, we commemorate anniversaries all the time. Every birthday party is a celebration of another year’s successfully passing. As opposed to birthdays, we also observe annual death remembrances such as November 22 (JFK’s assassination), December 7 (Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day) and September 11 (Patriot Day). There are national holidays for significant dates in each country’s history or culture. Examples are Independence Day in the U.S., Victoria Day in Canada and the Dragon Boat Festival in China.

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Personally, we are celebrating 10 years of the publication of our monthly musings about intellectual property (IP) in Attorney at Law Magazine! Our first column appeared in December 2012, and that seems like a very long time ago. 2012 – the year of (1) President Obama’s reelection, (2) the celebration of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee (60 years on the throne), and (3) the very end of the Mayan calendar.

We are honored and grateful that you read our monthly IP column (and happy that you’ve made it this far in this one). Thank You for your readership and for your favorable feedback. Our authorship adventure has been nothing but a pleasant and joyful one (even on that occasion when opposing counsel threw our own words back in our face – see “How to Kill a Patent,” September 2016). It has been an exceptional experience! But enough with the hand-shaking, pats-on-the-back stuff and self-congratulations. Let’s get back to why we’re all here – a discussion of IP anniversaries.

What is the significance of anniversaries in intellectual property?

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TRADE SECRETS

There are no anniversary celebrations here. Trade secrets don’t have filing, issue or expiration dates to commemorate. No one should even know about them, let alone publicly celebrate them on an annual basis.

TRADEMARKS

No annual celebrations here either, but for a registered mark the 10-year registration renewal date is a date not to forget. Trademark rights can be lost, or at least significantly impaired, if a trademark registration is not renewed on its 10-year anniversary.

PATENTS

Again, no annual anniversaries in the U.S. but in many countries a “patent annuity” (read: a patent owner user tax) must be paid to the local patent office in order to keep a patent application pending or a patent in force for the next year (of its full 20-year term). If a patent annuity is not paid (or in the U.S. if one of three maintenance fees due during the life of a U.S. utility patent is not paid) the affected patent expires – which also happens at the end of that patent’s full 20-year term. Patent owners (wistfully) don’t celebrate the expiration of their patents, but infringers-in-waiting might do so. This is a very big deal in the generic drug industry – see, for example, stories about Lipitor, Lyrica and Viagra falling off the “Patent Cliff” of patent expiration.

COPYRIGHTS

Copyright protection lasts a long time (thanks to Disney and U.S. Congressman Sony Bono), so annual celebrations aren’t typically observed. However, “Public Domain Day” has a growing following in the U.S. copyright universe. Under U.S. copyright law, January 1 is the day each year when expired copyright works legally enter the public domain. Disney’s copyright rights in the original iteration of Mickey Mouse – “Steamboat Willie” – enter the public domain on January 1, 2024.

Ten Years – that’s how long we’ve been writing for you. According to Hallmark, a 10th anniversary can be celebrated by gifts of aluminum. Hey! Beer comes in aluminum cans, and we like beer! Just sayin’…☺

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