Patents, Trademarks, and Copyrights- Oh My!
By Jennifer Williams
Reviewed By Cynthia Amis
For the most part, technology and I do not see eye to eye. Try as I may, we never seem to understand one another and therefore when a problem strikes I feel lost and confused. So when I found out that I would be attending CE week in New York City, which is a relatively large technology showcase, I wondered how it was that I would survive. I started to wonder how it was that this would merge with my everyday life, which includes law books, papers, and legalese. Then it dawned on me that all of these innovations- whether it be software or a tangible product, must be legally protected in one way or another. What I set out to find out was what sort of legal protection seemed to be most common in this technology filled world.
What I found was quite interesting, which was that many of these products have multiple forms of protection. Most products seemed to have at least one patent and a trademark of the name. Understanding the difference in these types of protection was important in helping me understand why a company would choose one form over another.
A trademark is a word, name, symbol or device. Trademark rights are used to prevent others from using a confusingly similar mark and protect things such as brand names, logos, titles, slogans, and a short phrase. Trademarks do not prevent others from making or from selling the same goods or services under a different mark.
A patent protects new innovation and is a grant of a property right to the inventor. Patents prevent competitors from making, selling, or using anything that may include the innovation that has been patented. Items such as pharmaceuticals, gadgets, and software are protected under a patent. Patents provide exclusivity to the use and/or sale of an innovation.
A copyright is a form of protection provided to the authors of works that are original. A copyright will protect both published and unpublished works such as literary, musical, and artistic works. A copyright owner is granted the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, perform, or display the copyrighted work publicly.
With that all clear it was now time to determine who was using what to protect their innovation. Enter the LOKSAK, with its simple yet revolutionary product called the aLOKSAK. The aLOKSAK is a resealable, element proof bag that looks much like the ordinary Ziplock bag. The difference is that these are puncture proof, weather proof, and 100 percent waterproof. At least this is my hope, because the use for these bags, which come in many sizes,is to protect gadgets such as an iPhone or iPad.
Meaning that the next time I am out on a boat and feel like taking my iPad along for entertainment I should be able to store it in one of these bags and there will be no damage. To take it a step further, these bags are certified waterproof for up to 60 meters. Theoretically, if I decide to take an extremely deep swim off of this boat, I can take my iPad along in the aLOKSAK and all should come out working as it did prior to submersion.
Always, the skeptic and a little protective of my $500 gadget, I felt a little bit uneasy. What if by some terrible twist of fate my bag were to leak and ruin my iPad, or whatever other gadget I may wish to have in the bag? Does aLOKSAK stand behind this bag to the point that it is guaranteed that the bag will perform as it is supposed to and my gadgets will remain dry? The answer is yes. Yet, by now I know to always look for the ‘but,’ and the aLOKSAK is no exception. LOKSAK stands behind its product BUT it does not guarantee that all users of the product will properly seal the bag. This is the company’s way out of liability it seems, improper sealing of the bag.
So what about the legal protections for the aLOKSAK? The bag holds five US patents covering the material of the bag, the leak proof and airtight seal, and the manufacturing methods. Patenting so many aspects of such a simple bag is the smart thing to do. This will prevent competitors from making and/or selling another product, which includes aspects of the bag that have been protected by one of the patents. Add a trademark for the name meaning competitors are unable to use a confusingly similar mark and it seems like this bag is completely protected.
The next product that I took some interest in is from a company called nPower, that name of course is trademarked. The product is called the nPower PEG, which is a backup battery charger for hand held products. Kinetic energy that is created by walking, running, or biking is stored in the PEG and then when your hand held device is at the end of its battery power, just plug it into the nPower PEG. I could hear bells ringing when this product was explained to me. I cannot count the number of times I have forgotten to charge my phone and it has died hours before I will be home to charge it. I am one of those who feel lost without my phone so those are desperate times for me. To be able to carry around a lightweight and portable charger seems like the answer to all my problems.
This one of a kind product will of course need a lot of legal protection as most groundbreaking innovations do. This portable little device has a total of four patents. One is for the design of the product while the rest are for future development. For instance if the company decides to develop a smaller version or a chip with the same kind of technology then this would be protected. I thought this was a very smart idea and I am sure one that is used often in the technology industry, where as soon as an idea is put out there a competitor will find a way to quickly improve or adapt it in some way.
The product that I was most excited about and which I hope to get my hands on sometime soon is the Marchon M3D eyewear. Say goodbye to the 3D glasses of the past with the red and blue film across the eye and hello to designer glasses with a 3D lens that also double as sunglasses. The M3D technology is used in many designer frames to provide 3D eyewear for movie theatres, 3D gaming consoles, 3D televisions and computers. As had been true with all other products I had seen, the name is trademarked and then there is the patent. The current patent protects the invention of the curved lenses designed to decode three-dimensional content. The patent is directed to the curved lenses, the assembled frames, and the manufacturing of the curved lenses. In addition to this, the Marchon has other pending paten application both in the U.S. and other countries regarding various aspects of the M3D lenses.
This is only a small portion of the products that I saw during my three technology filled days. In the end, I walked away with a better understanding of technology and found myself using phrases like uncompressed audio, polarizing axis, and 960 by 540 resolution. What is more beneficial to me, however, is the understanding that I took away of patents, copyrights, and trademarks. The first thing I noticed is that the copyright was absent. The patent seems to provide the meatiest protection in the technology world. This is where all the hard work that went into the innovation is protected so that competitors are not able to steal it after the fact and claim it as their own. The trademark seems to be the icing on the cake. After the substance of the product is protected, the name that identifies it to consumers and other developers gets its protection.