Intellectual Property Rights
SSE&C assists clients in protecting all aspects of intellectual property. We recommend the appropriate methods of protection to employ (patent, copyright, trademark, employment and confidentiality agreements, and litigation) as well as when and how such protection should commence.
We begin by assisting our clients in identifying their valuable intellectual property through a review of their business, including identification of those aspects that a competitor would copy or steal in order to start a competitive business. In some cases, this is the product name or advertising approach; in others, the customer list. In still others, it may be the key employees. Although the strategy will often vary depending on the business, there is a strategy or sometimes alternative strategies which can be employed to protect a client’s intellectual property.
With all intellectual property, periodic review of the procedures that are in place for identifying potential intellectual property and for protecting it is critical. All too often a change of personnel, a change in the focus of the business or the acquisition of another product line can create gaps in a company’s protection or leave it exposed to infringement claims by others. We assist clients in assessing their procedures and updating their protection for intellectual property, on a continuing and regular basis.
Trademark Registration protects a client’s right to use a name as its company, product or service name. While a company may already have certain rights known as common law rights based on use of the mark and marketing efforts, it can be very expensive to enforce common law trademark rights because of the initial requirement to prove the existence of those rights. Trademark registration considerably reduces the expense of such litigation and allows the trademark owner to obtain nationwide rights without having to use the mark on a nationwide basis. Clients also need to know if a name that has been chosen is already registered as a trademark by another person or entity, as that might expose the client to a claim of trademark infringement. We conduct trademark searches for clients so that the client can evaluate the risks, if any, of using a proposed mark or name before making a significant investment in it.
A patent gives the invention owner an effective monopoly for a limited time in order to exploit the invention, provided that the inventor seeks patent protection promptly after making the invention. Patents are also sought by clients to avoid the possibility that another person or entity will obtain a patent and preclude the client from using the invention. We assist clients in determining whether an invention is patentable and in obtaining patents.
Business owners also need to be aware of patents held by others, as they can prevent the business from making products or employing certain processes. We assist clients in analyzing existing patents and determining whether the client’s business is infringing on particular patents.
Copyright protection is available to literary works (which extends well beyond the next best seller to include works expressed in words, numbers or symbols, including computer programs), audiovisual works (which includes images intended to be shown through the use of machines such as projectors, viewers or other electronic equipment), motion pictures, phono-records, pictorial, graphic and sculptural works, sound recordings, and other types of visual works (e.g. paintings). Since March, 1989, copyright protection has not required registration, but the United States provides significant additional benefits to copyright owners who register their copyrighted works, thus making it desirable to obtain such registration in most instances. We assist clients in obtaining such registration and in determining what materials a client should register.
Trade secret protection depends on maintaining secrecy. It can be used to protect inventions, formulae, information and almost anything where access can be limited. While trade secret protection is sometimes the most appropriate form of protection to employ, it is full of traps for the unwary and can be the most difficult type of intellectual property to protect properly. Physical security is the first requirement and requires not only locks; it also needs scrutiny of electronic transmissions in and out of a facility. Non-disclosure and/or confidentiality agreements with all persons who have access to the trade secrets such as employees or consultants is critical. The attorneys at SSEC&K have extensive experience in preparing effective contracts to protect the interest of our clients.
Websites and Software
SSE&C assists clients in reviewing their website and software acquisition, licensing, development and implementation, to identify issues before agreements are finalized and to reduce the potential points of contention with the developer. We also assure that the client does not infringe on trademarks and the intellectual property rights of others and that the client obtains rights to use links and other content.
SSE&C represents software developers with respect to the protection of the computer software they originate. We determine the most appropriate forms of protection, whether copyright, trade secret, or other, and will frequently achieve copyright protection and trade secret protection for the same software, as well as preparing effective license agreements, which are a critical part of the protection scheme.