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The Inventor's Mentor

February 2009

 Intellectual Property -Part 2

This is the second part of topic started in last month’s newsletter that discusses patents, trade secrets, trademarks and copyrights and domain names. In this column I discuss trademarks, domain names and copyrights.



A trademark is a word, name, symbol, or device that is used in commerce when goods or services are traded, to indicate the source of the goods or services and to distinguish them from those of others. The expression “trade name” is reserved for the spelling of the name. “Trademark” refers to both the name and the logo.

Trademark rights may be used to prevent others from using a confusingly similar mark, but not to prevent others from making the same goods or from selling the same goods or services under a clearly different mark. Trademarks which are used in interstate or foreign commerce may be registered with the USPTO. The symbol ™ may be used at any time to alert the public of the seller’s claim, regardless of whether an application has been filed with the USPTO. The symbol © can only be used after the trademark has been awarded by the USPTO.

A trademark can last indefinitely if the owner continues to use the mark on or in connection with the goods and/or services in the registration. The trademark owner must also file all necessary maintenance documentation in the USPTO at the appropriate times.

If an invention is successful and has acquired a market reputation, securing a trademark for it is an excellent idea: whereas the life of a patent is only 20 years from the time of filing, the life of a trademark is unlimited – provided the necessary maintenance documentation are filed at the appropriate time with the USPTO. An inventor or his estate can enjoy royalties from the trademark long after the patent is expired.

Domain Names

In our modern Web savvy world, a trademark is not worth much if not accompanied by a corresponding domain name. Ideally the trade name and the domain name should be identical or very close. In my case for example, I made sure that the name for my company “Patents and Ventures” was available as “” before I registered it. Any inventor seeking to protect his invention with a trademark should also make sure that he can secure a corresponding domain name. Often, finding an appropriate domain name is difficult given the cybersquatting practice prevalent on the Web. Domain name disputes involving alleged bad-faith registration are typically resolved using the Uniform Domain Name Resolution Policy (UDRP) process developed by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

Domain names are registered with ICANN. Search tools for domain names are available on the Web at a number of service provider companies such as Network Solutions and



Copyright protects authors of “original works of authorship” including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works, both published and unpublished. The 1976 Copyright Act generally gives the owner of copyright the exclusive right to reproduce the copyrighted work, to prepare derivative works, to distribute copies or recording of the copyrighted work, to perform the copyrighted work publicly, or to display the copyrighted work publicly.

The copyright protects the form of expression rather than the subject matter of the writing. For example, a description of a machine could be copyrighted, but this would only prevent others from copying the description; it would not prevent others from writing a description of their own or from making and using the machine.

A work is automatically copyrighted the moment it is created. Marking it as copyrighted is optional, but it may be a good idea to notify the public that it is so by using the copyright symbol ©, followed by the year of the first publication of the work and the name of the copyright holder. This action may strengthen the hand of the copyright holder in case of future litigation. Copyrights can be formally registered at the Copyright Office of the Library of Congress.

The current duration of a copyright is for the author’s life plus an additional 70 years after the author’s death.


For more information about Patents and Trademarks go to

For more information about Copyrights go to

For more information about Trade Secrets, Wikipedia has a great entry at

For more information about domain names go to the ICANN site at .

Domain searches can be conducted at and at


For archived newsletters and a lot of information for the small inventor go to: If you have any question you can contact me at (858)259-2226 or email me at This newsletter should not be construed as legal advice. ©2010 by George Levy.