Innovations that May Shape the Future

December 18, 2015

Surival Breeds Innovation

As Plato once opined, necessity is the mother of invention. New generations arise, and each one is confronted with a unique set of challenges. Whether they are faced with war, drought, famine or other difficulties, they strive to overcome these obstacles. While finding ways to survive, humans have also sought ways to make life better, easier and more efficient. It is in meeting these necessities that some of mankind’s greatest innovations have seen their genesis.

That spirit of invention continues to thrive today. Could anyone have imagined the prevalence or even the existence of smartphone technology a generation ago? Technological innovation moves quickly. What was new just a year or two before is obsolete now. We have become a people accustomed to newer, better and quicker everything, and the inventions just keep coming.

1. Google Smartwatch

One of the most interesting and potentially life-changing inventions that is now in development is a Google smartwatch that may help diabetics keep a better handle on blood sugar levels without using a needle. To use the device, a person places a detachable component of the watch over their finger. A microparticle is shot to the skin’s surface, neatly and painlessly taking a blood sample. The component is then reattached to the watch where it can precisely determine the user’s blood glucose levels. Google filed a patent application for this innovation. However, they decline to say whether or not the device will soon be on the market. If it should come to fruition, it’s clear that the apparatus would greatly improve the quality of life of the millions of people around the world who suffer from diabetes.

2. Engineered Farming

Another fascinating innovation comes from a network of university researchers from America, the U.K. and Australia. They are working to develop genetic tools that would enable the world’s farmers to boost crop yields to incredible levels. Scientists involved envision a world in which food shortages are a thing of the past thanks to the specialized engineering of plants that allows them to use sunlight far more efficiently. Dubbed C4 photosynthesis by researchers, the invention draws on the more efficient growth rates of sugarcane and corn, re-engineering them to make new varieties of rice and wheat that could potentially feed the world. With hunger a thing of the past, who knows what kinds of new inventions would be enabled?

3. Nanobots

Other researchers visualize a future in which nanobots can be deployed into the bloodstream in order to combat disease. Such nanobots might be used to deliver life-saving chemotherapy with only a fraction of the side effects or to create blood clots that might help with more efficient wound healing. Though still in the early stages, it’s easy to imagine how nanobots might revolutionize human health and longevity.

4. Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence has been on the horizon for some time, but technology is finally catching up to the imagination of science fiction writers. Researchers are closer than ever to cracking the code that will enable them to “solve intelligence,” making it possible to create from silicon a consciousness that successfully mimics human sensibilities.

Each of these innovative ideas needs intellectual property protection in order to thrive. If you have inventions that are in development, then you need to protect them. Contact Texas patent attorney Jeff Williams to learn about how you can protect your ideas and get your free consultation.

How Cuba Relations Affect Intellectual Property

December 9, 2015

US and Cuba Relations

The improvement in relations between the U.S. and Cuba has opened up a world of possibilities for commerce. Previously, Americans were prohibited from engaging in any transactions with Cuban nationals. This made it virtually impossible for Americans to operate a business venture in Cuba and vice versa. Nonetheless, it’s accurate to say that the two countries were aware of many of the famous brands in each other’s homelands. That’s why small Cuban ventures have used famous American names like McDonald’s for restaurants. It’s also why Cuba has struggled for years to protect its famous brands like Cohiba cigars and Havana Club Rum in the U.S. with little success.

Intellectual Property Laws

Both U.S. and Cuban trademark laws require that the owner of a trademark uses that mark in commerce before it can be registered. If a mark is not being used in commerce, then it is subject to cancellation or allegations of non-use. Such allegations can be brought by third parties that may have an eye on taking a certain trademark for themselves. This leaves companies on both sides of the battle vulnerable. Without the ability to use their marks in the other country, it was virtually impossible to protect them.

American Interests

As relations improve, so has interest in doing business with the other side. American companies with famous marks like Nike, Pepsi, Levi’s, Coca-Cola and more are scrambling to protect their intellectual property rights in Cuba. Of course, many of these organizations have been trying to do this for years. They file for trademark protection in Cuba in an effort to defend their intellectual property rights from infringers who want to illegally profit from using their famous name. However, the inability to conduct business in Cuba made this a difficult process.

With loosened restrictions, enforcement actions are also on the rise. In one example, a restaurant operator in Camaguey, a city about 300 miles from Havana, has decided to discontinue his use of the “McDonald’s” name and familiar golden arches after a visit from that corporation’s lawyer. Similar visits to other infringers are likely to occur in the future as more American companies establish a foothold in Cuba.

The court system in the U.S. has long made it difficult for Cuban companies to protect their intellectual property interests in this country. The embargo forced rum maker Bacardi, which operates in Puerto Rico, to take on the rights to the “Havana Club” mark in the U.S. while a Cuban concern owns the rights to the mark in other countries. The makers of “Cohiba” cigars have spent nearly 20 years in a legal battle against a U.S. rival that cited the embargo as a means of blocking registration in the U.S. by the Cuban company.

These stalemated court battles and others may finally see resolution as relations between the countries become more open. Texas intellectual property attorney Jeff Williams is advising clients to file for trademark protection in Cuba as a means of protecting their rights and preventing others from infringing on a well-known mark.

How Presidential Elections are Affected by Intellectual Property

December 3, 2015

American presidential campaigns have a reputation for being fast moving and cutthroat. Anxious to get their message across, candidates and their staffers move quickly to put together events and advertising campaigns. They use radio, television, the Internet and in-person appearances to try to garner as much support as possible. Flyers, posters, bumper stickers, buttons and more are thrown together with catchy slogans and a symbol that evokes a candidate. Increasingly, popular songs are used to pump up crowds and drive home messages. The trouble is that most presidential campaigns play fast and loose with intellectual property rights. Frequently, this turns into an embarrassing debacle for the candidate.

Most Frequent Intellectual Property Abuse

Perhaps the most frequent intellectual property disputes in modern presidential elections relate to the use of copyrighted songs. Using songs to attract voters isn’t new. Candidates have been doing this since some of the earliest U.S. presidential elections. Back then, it wasn’t unusual for candidates to use the melody of a familiar tune like “Yankee Doodle” but with rewritten lyrics that related to the candidate. Such use did not present a copyright challenge because these melodies were well known and didn’t necessarily have the formal copyright protection that is available today.

Modern presidential campaigns no longer rewrite the lyrics to a familiar tune. Instead, they often use well-known pop and rock songs at rallies, in commercials and for other purposes. The trouble is that the candidates and their campaigns rarely ask for permission to use these songs. Accordingly, the copyright holder may make a formal objection to this unauthorized use. Such objections are particularly prevalent when the artist or copyright holder disagrees with the political stance of the candidate using the song. Simply put, some artists don’t want their music to be associated with a certain candidate.

In the recent past, the holder of the copyright for the song “Eye of the Tiger” sued Newt Gingrich for unauthorized use. Similarly, one-time candidate Michele Bachmann received correspondence from Tom Petty’s lawyer asking her to cease use of “American Girl.” Mitt Romney got in trouble by using Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” for an attack ad against President Barrack Obama. Rock band Heart formally disagreed with Sarah Palin’s use of “Barracuda.” The list goes on and on.

The Lanham Act

Such copyright claims can also become a claim under the Lanham Act, especially if the copyright owner feels that the candidate’s use of the song creates a false association. The Lanham Act is mainly directed to trademarks, but the section concerning false endorsement can apply to copyrights as well.

Such disputes are unfortunate because they cast the candidates in an unattractive light whenever an artist comes out in protest. These problems can be avoided if the campaign seeks a license. In fact, sometimes successful partnerships have been formed between artists and candidates, such as John F. Kennedy and Frank Sinatra with the song “High Hopes” and Bill Clinton and Fleetwood Mac with “Don’t Stop.”

If you’d like to know more about copyright matters, contact intellectual property attorney Jeff Williams.

The Evolution of Intellectual Property

The origins of Intellectual Property – 500 BCE

The history of intellectual property is complex and fascinating. It begins in 500 BCE when Sybaris, a Greek state, made it possible for citizens to obtain a one year patent for “any new refinement in luxury.” Patent, trademark and copyright laws have become more complicated in the ensuing centuries but the intent remains the same. Countries establish intellectual property laws to foster creativity and to make it possible for the inventor to reap the benefits of their ingenuity.

Intellectual Property Legislation -1623

Mentions of copyrights, patents and other matters of intellectual property law are sparse in early history. It is not until medieval Europe that some major and well-known legislation was passed. The first of these was the Statute of Monopolies. This British law was established in 1623. At the time, all major industries were controlled by guilds. Each guild held considerable power, with the government endowing them with the ability to dictate what products and raw materials could be imported as well as how those items would be produced and sold. Moreover, the guilds were responsible for bringing all new innovations to the marketplace, essentially giving them ownership and control over inventions even if they had nothing to do with their creation.

Ownership Rights – 1710

The Statute of Monopolies changed that by allowing the author or inventor to retain their ownership rights. Monopolies, in the form of government-sanctioned guilds, were no longer granted. The law also guaranteed the inventor a 14 year period during which he had the exclusive right to govern how his invention was used.

Other significant legislation came in 1710 with the Statute of Anne. This law similarly provided a 14 year term of protection. It also gave inventor the option of seeking a 14 year renewal term. Aimed largely at copyrights, this law granted authors rights in the recreation and distribution of their work.

Intellectual Property in colonial US – Early 1800’s

Shortly after the U.S. broke away from Great Britain, most of the 13 colonies had established its own system for intellectual property protection. The one exception to this was Delaware. However, it was soon apparent that having each state operate its own system of intellectual property protection was problematic, leading to the establishment of federal laws that had precedence over any state laws.

Global Intellectual Property – Late 1800’s

In 1883, the Paris Convention came into being. It was an international agreement through which inventors could protect their innovations even if they were being used in other countries. Writers came together in 1886 for the Berne Convention which led to protection on an international level for all forms of written expression as well as songs, drawings, operas, sculptures, paintings and more. Trademarks began to gain wider protection in 1891 with the Madrid Agreement while the offices created by the Paris and Berne Conventions eventually combined to become the United International Bureaux for the Protection of Intellectual Property, the precursor of today’s World Intellectual Property Organization, which is an office of the United Nations.

Through centuries of development and innovation, inventors and creators now have dozens of options when it comes to protecting intellectual property. If you are in need of any intellectual property services in Texas please contact the Law Office of Jeff Williams PLLC for your free consultation.

5 Times in History when an Idea was Stolen

History has proven to us time and time again the importance of having patent law. Many instances exist in which someone’s idea was stolen because it was not properly patented. After learning of some of these real-life instances that led others to surrender the profits from their ideas to others, you might be even more convinced of the necessity of a patent attorney like those found at the Law Office of Jeff Williams.

1. Thomas Edison and the Light Bulb

Although Thomas Edison is still renowned in history books for being the inventor of the light bulb, evidence shows that many other inventors toyed with the idea of the light bulb first. People such as Jean Focault, Humphrey Davy, J.W. Starr and others messed around with the idea. Some historians believe that Heinrich Goebel was actually the first person to have invented the light bulb in 1854. In fact, he tried to sell his invention to Edison, who refused it, but later bought Goebel’s patent for the light bulb after his death.

2. Albert Einstein and the Theory of Relativity

Albert Einstein is another person’s whose idea he is famous for was not really the initial creator of it. Most people associate the theory of relativity with Einstein. However, in all actuality, Henri Poincare was the expert on the theory of relativity and most likely the one who with whom the idea originated. In fact, Poincare published 30 books and more than 500 essays on the theory of relativity before Einstein ever came along. Because the idea wasn’t protected under patent law, however, Einstein was able to lay claim to it by never citing Poincare as a source for his idea.

3. Alexander Graham Bell and the Telephone

Everybody attributes the invention of the telephone to Alexander Graham Bell. Yet, here is another instance of an idea perhaps being stolen because the true inventor of the idea lacked a patent attorney to ensure that his idea was protected. According to historical records, Antonio Meucci, an Italian inventor, actually invented the first telephone in 1860, but he called his invention the “teletrofono.” Although Meucci filed a temporary patent on his idea, he failed to renew his patent. Shortly thereafter, Alexander Graham Bell grabbed hold of the idea, obtained a patent and subsequently is now known as the inventor of the telephone.

4. Alexander Fleming and Penicillin

When you hear the term “penicillin,” you no doubt attribute its invention to Alexander Fleming, who history teaches us came up with the idea of using penicillin to treat illnesses. However, many historians note that evidence indicates that it is difficult to pinpoint who actually came up with the idea of penicillin. North African tribes reportedly used the medicine for thousands of years, and in 1897 penicillum glaucoma was used by Ernest Duchesne to cure typhoid in guinea pigs. Even when Fleming later picked up on the idea of penicillin and worked with it, he stopped working on it and moved on while other scientists eventually mastered it and found a way to mass produce it.

5. Galileo Galilee and the Telescope

The Italian astronomer Galileo is always attributed with the invention of the telescope. However, the person who actually came up with the idea of the telescope was a Dutchman named Hans Lippershey. He even applied for a patent for his idea back in 1608, but his application was denied for no clear reason. Therefore, after Galileo heard about Lippershey’s work, he was able to assemble his own version of the telescope and because he managed to obtain a patent for his work, he is the one who is forever accredited with its invention.

As you can see, there are serious consequences for failing to have your ideas properly patented. As in these cases, someone else could end up receiving credit for an idea you actually came up with if the laws of patenting are not followed. This is why it’s essential for you to make sure that you obtain the representation of an experienced patent attorney when you need to protect a potentially successful idea that you have.

At the Law Office of Jeff Williams, our lawyers have experience with patent cases and know the appropriate procedures for protecting your ideas, from applying for patents to arguing any disputes that arise over them in court. Our lawyers are always on your side and will fight aggressively for your rights. Call us today to obtain the representation that you need to secure your ideas.