Posts tagged Intellectual Property
STEREOLITHOGRAPHY and Intellectual Property

Additive Manufacturing to some – 3D Printing to the rest of us.

“Stereo, what?”

Stereolithography or SLA, is a technology used for the 3D printing of models, prototypes and other three-dimensional products.  It is also known as additive manufacturing because the production process involves adding layer upon layer of material with photopolymerization – the application of light to cause the layers of materials to link creating a solid, three-dimensional form. 

Research in this area began in the 1970s, and a patent on the process was granted to Chuck Hall in 1984.  While the early years of 3D printing were grounded in science and technology (and of no real interest or usefulness to the average person), the evolution of the process has changed the 3D printing landscape, making it into a more creative application.  Today, 3D printing is not only more readily accessible to the average person – it can also be great fun.


SLA in the Technical World:

In recent years SLA has evolved so that many different types of materials can be used in 3D printing. For example, SLA is commonly used in the medical field for making plastic molds for hearing aids, for building a custom fit ceramic crown in a dental office, or for anatomical models to be used by doctors for preoperative planning.  The company Invisalign© has been using the technology for years to custom mold retainers.  Similarly, other companies use SLA to create three-dimensional bone-replacement devices uniquely measured for a specific patient.

 

Likewise, automobile manufacturers can print replacement parts for cars as needed whether it is made from rubber, plastic or metal.  In fact, designer, Petr Chladek built an entire car through the use of 3D printing.  His “4ekolka” all-electric car is not only lightweight but more economical.

The 4ekolka is an all-electric car made entirely through the use of 3D printing.

The 4ekolka is an all-electric car made entirely through the use of 3D printing.

 
Custom designs and personalization such as a 3D thermoplastic skin

Custom designs and personalization such as a 3D thermoplastic skin

3D printing can be used for elements of a car’s bodywork to allow for custom designs and customer personalization such as in the form of a 3D thermoplastic skin.[1]

The advantages of SLA include the ability to produce products, as needed, reducing the need for storage space.  Also, there is less waste. Any material not used in the product can be reused.  With 3D printers becoming more locally available it is now easier than ever to have something printed locally versus having a product shipped to you. 

However, more technical 3D printing projects may require a CAD based software program to design instructions for the printer. For the rest of us, there are simple 3D design apps drawing the schematics for the product we design—which we can then print ourselves with a relatively inexpensive home printer—or sent to a 3D printing company such as Shapeways.[2]

SLA in the Creative World:

As the scope of materials used in 3D printing has expanded, and the printers themselves have evolved to manage more complicated printing projects, SLA has evolved into an artform – literally. 

Printers can use gold, silver, sandstone, acrylics, wax—even food products such as sugar and fresh ingredients—to create three-dimensional products including jewelry, shoes, clothing, and artwork.  Even the “wings” the Victoria’s Secret models use in their fashion shows are 3D printed.[3]

Examples:

3D jewelry and household items (source: Shapeways.com):

Footwear:

Adidas is launching its Futurecraft 4D shoe.[4]

Racing to compete in the 3D market, Nike is launching its Zoom Vaporfly Elite Flyprint.[5]

Designer Katrien Herdewyn has designed 3D printed high heels.[6]

Clothing:

Paris Fashion Week presents 3D printed clothing (left).[7]
And a Victoria’s Secret Model wearing 3D printed lingerie (right).[8]

3D Printed Edibles: 

SLA has even made its way to food. These are examples of using sugar and water compounds for 3D printed cakes.[9]

Games & Entertainment: 

SLA has an application in the games and entertainment industries such as a guitar[10], and chess[11].


BUT WAIT:  Is your fun or hobby breaking the law?

SLA can appeal to scientists and artists, foodies and fashionistas. The attraction to 3D printing may be the intricacy of writing computer code for 3D artwork or the excitement of seeing your design grow layer by layer into a tangible three-dimensional form.  A 3D printed product can be unique and complex, or simple and easily mass-produced.   Children love having their faces printed on the three-dimensional image of their favorite Disney ® character.[12]  Or Star Wars® fans might want their image printed onto a model of a Storm Trooper®.[13]  

But whenever we come up with great creative ideas and different ways to express ourselves, the creativity police – commonly known as Intellectual Property Lawyers – are always hovering in the background ready to dampen our fun.  And for good reason.

Intellectual property laws are designed to help protect our creations. 

Three-dimensional models can be protected by copyright law, which gives the designer the exclusive right to reproduce and sell his design.  Similarly, trademark law protects trademarks or brands such as Disney ®, Nike ® and others from being imprinted on unauthorized products.  The technology behind the SLA printers themselves may be protected by patent law.  And the code used to program a printer may be protected by trade secret law

An Unfortunate Truth:

Technology is always attractive to infringers – those wanting to make easy money by copying other peoples’ ideas. 

SLA is a particularly attractive target for infringers as the cost to set up business is becoming more affordable.  3D printing requires only a small space for a printer versus a larger manufacturing plant and warehouse. Plus, today’s smaller printers are more mobile and can easily be moved between locations to avoid detection.  SLA does not need the shipping and distribution channels that typical product manufacturing require. The program codes, design graphics, and other schematics can be readily sent over the Internet to a local 3D printing service for in-person pick up, or for delivery service.

The intellectual property owner’s ability to control their products’ creation and distribution can be difficult.  Particularly when the cyber-technological nature of SLA means the orders and sales of SLA products can traverse international borders, or can be communicated between computer devices –virtually undetected. 

Where ordinarily imported goods would be monitored by U.S. Border and Customs Protection to ensure goods coming into the U.S. are authentic and not counterfeit, that gatekeeping step might be erased when using SLA. 

A recent study estimates the global loss of revenue to intellectual property owners in 2018 alone through the use of SLA will be around one hundred billion dollars.[14]

A Cybersecurity Issue:

An important concern is that the cyber-technological nature of SLA may make it easily accessible to hackers.  Illegally altered SLA files can result in the manufacture of abnormal 3D images including malformed medical implants, or imperfectly manufactured automotive parts that could cause physical harm if used. 

Using cybersecurity to protect SLA is more important than ever—not only in the manufacturing environment—but also for general business and home use of 3D printing.

Here are three general rules to follow when creating, selling and buying SLA:

  • Creators should identify the work they consider proprietary; that they wouldn’t want anyone else to steal from them; and use intellectual property laws to protect those rights against infringers. 
  • Sellers should know the provenance of the product they are selling: Who manufactured it?  Was the manufacturer authorized to manufacture it?  Is the seller making accurate representations about the product he is selling – is it really an authentic automotive part? 
  • Buyers must be diligent about vetting the products they buy.  Is the model an authentic Disney ® princess or a cheap knockoff?

Final Thoughts:

As we acknowledge World Intellectual Property Day on April 26, 2018, let us all admire and respect the creative processes of others.

 
Planet Earth  [15]

Planet Earth [15]

 

This year’s World Intellectual Property Day campaign celebrates the brilliance, ingenuity, curiosity and courage of the women who are driving change in our world and shaping our common future.[16]

If you should have questions or need legal assistance with your intellectual property, contact Laraine Burrell directly and read up on all the latest IP topics on the JDSA Blog.


Marketing and Branding for Cannabis Businesses

Years after legalization, cannabis businesses still do not have clear parameters for what they can and cannot advertise.  At a State level, Washington recently buttoned-down advertising, causing many businesses to have to remove billboards, transportation ads and other marketing platforms.  Washington cannabis producers and processors are only allowed to have signs, which are on the licensed property and attached to the building, while retail stores are allowed to have billboards with limited content. Among other restrictions, the sign or billboard can only promote the name of the company, the nature of the business, and the company’s logo.  These regulations are tight but at least they provide clear guidelines on what is, and what is not, allowed. 


What about social media?

Social media advertising is much less consistent on what a cannabis industry business can advertise, both with an actual ad and on the company’s social media page.  There are no clear guidelines set for the industry at this time and some argue, this is a good thing. 

In a recent two-part article (Part 1 and Part 2), Marijuana Business Daily reported that ads will be approved by social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, and then taken down weeks later, wasting precious marketing dollars. The article continues by stating cannabis businesses should continue to advertise on this platform—staying within reasonable parameters as far as content is concerned— because regulations may be coming down the pipe.  To note: Alcohol and tobacco ads are heavily regulated and essentially banned on many social media sites.  So, before it comes to that, cannabis businesses may want to leverage the social media platform as much as possible. 


The message isn’t all negative.

There has been an increase in print and television mediums allowing cannabis businesses, and those ancillary to the industry, to advertise their products and services.  As the second installment of the article states, a law firm, a dispensary, and a grower have recently had success.  These marketing campaigns, though the exception, should be seen as a positive step towards public awareness and acceptance of the industry.  The industry will always face discrimination and those who are morally or otherwise opposed to the “drug” of cannabis.  The only way through that roadblock is to promote businesses, and the industry as a whole, as professional and legitimate. 


Money talks.

As with many situations, for those looking to advertise, money talks.  Media outlets are more likely to overlook the nature of the content, and personal feelings on cannabis, if the price is right.  However, this is not an option for most companies, at least in Washington State, operating on small margins.  What may be money better spent is on branding and creating brand loyalty within your clientele – whether with retail stores or the general public.  A winning brand or slogan could carry the business while the industry remains in the grey area of marketing; with the goal of seamlessly shifting the brand’s message into public perspective when/if cannabis becomes federally legal.


Additional considerations.

I shouldn’t have to say it, but I will anyway: avoid using puns in marketing.  This industry is ripe with puns and constantly coughing up ways to blow smoke (see what I did there?).  Puns are over used and give off a cheapened view of the industry that is often associated more with the black market.

After you have developed a strong brand, trade name and/or logo, the next step is to protect those assets through trademarking.  Federal intellectual property protection is off the table as far as cannabis is concerned, but it could be linked to hats, stickers or other items.  Also, do not overlook the state trademark system.  Securing a state trademark may go a long way in proving first-in-use should federal protection ever become available.  The attorneys at JDSA have been successful in attaining state trademarks and conducting federal searches for clients, which also help to set brands up for success when the federal barriers are lifted.  JDSA’s Intellectual Property team will help navigate your goals and provide industry specific advice on where and who to target. 


Bringing it all together.

Marketing through normal channels may not be a viable option for most cannabis businesses due to the regulations, costs and risks that even if initially approved, may be taken down. 

The cannabis industry is accustomed to being told no – and having to get creative.  The realm of advertising is yet another opportunity for the industry to seek new mediums for promoting their message.  I have faith that the industry will adjust and continue to creatively flourish.  

KNOCK IT OFF!

Stop Counterfeiting in its Tracks

If you’ve ever purchased a knock-offlike a watch or purseyou know they can be quite convincing. Some are so accurate, you’re convinced you have an original. So, how did counterfeiting become so, well, good? And did you know there is a legal difference between knock-offs and counterfeits?

Typically, the term “counterfeiting” invokes an image of a ready-to-sell, fake product.  Seldom does a discussion on counterfeiting include the observable signs of “pre-counterfeiting” activity and how to prevent the fabrication of a fake item before it occurs. Cloning a product requires knowledge of several basic components including, the product make-up, what it looks like, and how it is created. This includes the manufacturing process, the materials used in making the product, the distribution channels, the retail markets and price points. Counterfeiters will seek opportunities to obtain valuable information to assist them in creating a counterfeit product: A product intended to devalue your business assets.

Certain types of business activities or incidents might appear to be random or coincidental events. However, upon closer evaluation, they may be one part of an elaborate counterfeiting scheme. Some known examples regarding how counterfeiters infiltrated a business to create knock-off products include:

  • Employees

  • Machinery and Materials

  • Manufacturing and Distribution Chains

  • Point of Sale

  • Damage Control

  • Asset protection

While there are many legal options for stopping the production of knock-off products, claims for counterfeiting can only be brought if the claimant owns a federal trademark registration.  Therefore, a company’s business plan to combat counterfeiting should include a discussion with a lawyer about the possibility of federal trademark protection.

Read the full article to learn more about this, and descriptions of all above examples.

WORLD INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY DAY: The Value of Global Brands

Each year on April 26th the intellectual property community celebrates World Intellectual Property Day to recognize the role creation and innovation has played in our lives.  Intellectual property – ranging from patents and trademark to copyrights and trade secrets – has made our lives safer, more comfortable, and through innovation is turning problems into progress.

Trademarks, or “brands” as they are known in the advertising and marketing community, are the more familiar form of Intellectual Property that people interact with on a daily basis.  From the morning cup of Starbucks® coffee to the late-night snack from McDonald’s® our lives, our possessions, are an array of trademark choices often influenced by a trademark’s reputation.  As a brand grows in recognition and reputation so can its value and so it is appropriate on World Intellectual Property Day to not only recognize the world’s most valuable brands, but also to consider why trademarks are a valuable asset to any business.


The Most Valuable Brands of 2016:

Authorities differ on which brand was the most valuable in 2016, but there is a general consensus that certain brands consistently rank among the world’s best in reputation and value[1].  The following list from Forbes offers no surprises as to which companies have the most valuable global brands, but perhaps food for thought is the fact that something as simple as a trademark can be worth billions of dollars:

 

Source: Forbes


 

Why Trademarks are Valuable to Any Business:

No matter the size of a business, nor the goods and services it sells, its trademarks are likely to be the most valuable asset it has.  Even so, many businesses underestimate the potential value of their brands and how to get the most value out of a trademark.  Trademarks have a certain role to play in the business arena.  Knowing what that role is and then allowing a trademark to properly do its job could turn a new business enterprise into the next billion-dollar business world leader.

1.     Trademarks Relay Information to Consumers:

Trademarks are an efficient way to market your products to consumers.  They are source identifiers.  They tell consumers that here is the source of a certain product of a certain quality and reputation.  Trademarks help consumers find products among a sea of competing goods and the more distinctive and recognizable a trademark is, the more likely it will stand out from its competitors and influence a consumer’s choice of purchase.

Importantly, it is consumer experience that creates value or “good will” in a brand.  The more consumers learn that when buying a certain product, they will get a certain experience – good or bad – the more the reputation of the brand under which the product is sold grows. 

2.     Trademarks Can Efficiently Promote Your Products, and Enhance Business Reputation Through the Internet:

Many consumers use the Internet to search for information on products and services and typically do so by typing a brand name into the search engine.  The more a trademark is marketed and becomes known to consumers, and the more consumers search the Internet by using that trademark, the higher that trademark tends to appear in Internet rankings.  A higher ranking can in turn generate more traffic and greater consumer interest toward the trademark resulting in greater brand value.

3.     Trademarks Ensure Companies Don’t Lose Business to Competitors:

Trademark law is designed to protect consumers from becoming confused between products and from accidentally purchasing one product when they intended to purchase another.  The goal of a trademark is to prevent that confusion by being as distinctively different from competitors’ marks as possible.  Logically, no business wants to lose customers.  A business should, therefore, not only adopt trademarks that are distinctive, but also monitor the marketplace to make sure competitors are not appropriating customers by intentionally using a confusingly similar brand.

4.     Trademarks Can Enhance Employee Experience:

A brand’s reputation can have an effect on employees working under that brand.  If the brand has a good reputation, employees may feel more positively toward their jobs, and have a greater sense of pride in their work.  A more reputable brand is more likely to draw applicants for employment positions than a brand with a bad reputation.  A more reputable brand can create better business opportunities for the brand owner.

5.     The Billion Dollar Brands Were Initially Purchased for a Few Hundred Dollars:

An application for a federal trademark can be as little as $325; less for a state registration, and the fees to maintain a registration every five or ten years are only a couple of hundred dollars.[2]  Considering the value a good mark can add to a company, the cost to adopt, use and register a trademark is a bargain. 

Without a doubt, our lives are better today because society encourages innovation and creation, and recognizes the value of intellectual property.  As the world celebrates World Intellectual Property Day, take a look around and see how creation and innovation over the years have enhanced your life.


  [1] A brand’s value should not be confused with a company’s value.  A brand can be considered an asset entitled to its own entry on the company balance sheets.

[2] While the United State Patent and Trademark Office, and various State offices, have made applying for a trademark a fairly simple process, there are pitfalls and seeking legal advice from an Intellectual Property Attorney is recommended.

Trademark 101: Choose It, Own It, Protect It, Police It

It is a word, slogan, symbol, design, color, sound, or a combination of these things. It tells consumers that particular goods or services originate from a particular source. It is vital to your brand identity as it helps distinguish the goods or services of one party from those of another.

It is your trademark. And you want a strong trademark.

Some strong, and well-known trademarks, are logos (Apple for computers); sounds (MGM’s roaring lion); and color (Home Depot Orange). 

So how do you pick a strong and protectable mark? It might be easy to choose one, but getting your trademarks approved and registered might not be so easy. Not every mark is strong and protectable. Trademarks fall along a spectrum of “distinctiveness” – the more distinctive the mark is to consumers, the stronger and more protectable the mark.

On the flip side of this is the fact that you can’t trademark what it is you sell. A generic trademark is the same exact term as the goods or services that it covers. For example, you cannot trademark the term “beer” to cover the beer you are selling. This is because others in the beer industry need to be able to market their beer using the generic term “beer”.

There are three main categories of trademarks. They are:

  • Descriptive. These are weak and generally are not protectable or registrable. A descriptive mark literally describes an essential element of the goods or services it covers; for example, “cold and creamy” for ice cream.
  • Suggestive. These are strong and eligible for protection and registration. These suggest a quality or characteristics of the goods or services; for example, “Java City” for coffee bar services.
  • Arbitrary or Fanciful. These are the strongest and most protectable type of mark.  These marks either do not exist in language, or have nothing to do with the goods or services they cover; for example,“Google” for the online search engine.

Next, how do you protect it? That’s where trademark rights come into the equation. In purely legal terms, trademark rights are the legal interest in a protectable trademark that may permit the trademark owner to prevent others from unauthorized uses of the trademark. Essentially, if you own it, no one else can use it.

The first step in protecting your trademark right is very simple. The minute you associate a protectable mark with your goods or services and begin marketing or selling those goods or services to the public, you are establishing rights in that mark - even if you have not formally registered your mark.

Formally registering your mark with a state trademark office or the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) may be the best course of action for your business, and certainly gives you the most benefits.

And finally, how would you police your mark? Well, whether trademark rights exist only at common law, or via state or federal registration, a mark is only as strong as the owner’s efforts to police and enforce it.  As owner of a trademark, you really have to monitor the business activity in your region—including online—for uses that may generate a likelihood of consumer confusion with your protectable mark.  If you find a potentially infringing use, you will want to notify the owner of the challenged mark and request that they stop using the challenged mark.  If they do not stop using the mark, you may want to consider a lawsuit for trademark infringement.

Bringing it all together: Trademark law is complex. It is recommended that you consult a trademark attorney when choosing, filing an application to register, and policing and enforcing your trademark. It’s the best way to protect your business interests and your brand.

To learn more about this topic in depth, and to explore the benefits to USPTO registration, read the full article. To better understand Trademark Law, call us today at JDSA Law.