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LegalGround >> Patent/Trademark/Copywriting question


6/21/10 4:01 PM
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Dojosensei
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Member Since: 5/19/02
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As many know I build mma cages, boxing rings and wrestling rings. About 4 yrs ago I came up with my own designs for rings and cages, bought a website (the first ringsandcages.com name) and started building products.

I've had a couple of companies go to shows that have bought cages from me and copied the designs and started putting out their own cages (basically making money off of my designs). They have also started copying portions of my website for their websites. Also some companies have been using the Rings and Cages, Inc name as their own and adding their own little something to it.

Is there anything I can do about this and if so, what would need to be done to actually achieve success. What i'd like to see happen is the materials be removed from their site. They cease using my designs as I have not authorized anyone to use my designs and I would like the name to be left alone so my customers would no longer be confused of who they were calling as I get constant phone calls from customers asking for so and so and they happen to be with another company that plays off of my company name.

I am getting ready to roll out new designs in the next couple of weeks and how do I protect those designs? What is the best course of action for that? Also, is it too late to trademark the company name so I can put a stop to other companies playing off of it?

Any info is appreciated.
6/25/10 2:02 AM
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KenTheWalrus
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Since this is your business, livelihood, and creation, I would get a lawyer and put them on retainer if I were you.

There will be a statute of limitations (deadline for filing) for your claims. Seeing as how some of the timelines may have started as far back as four years, time is really of the essence.

The longer you wait to get a lawyer the less likely it will be that you will be able to get a legal remedy.

 

6/25/10 12:36 PM
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Dojosensei
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thanks for the feedback
6/29/10 1:51 AM
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BarkLikeADog
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...& with that in mind, just to prep you a little bit:

Intellectual property law is only as good as your ability to enforce it. Meaning that if you're not willing or able to prosecute your cases to conclusion, no government agency is going to step up & do it for you. (FBI does enforce some aspects of copyright law but that's generally limited to bulk software bootleggers - video dubhouses, etc.)

IIRC, your situation is one of very thin profit margin & thus you've got several difficult battles here, many of which may not be worth sinking resources into.

Of the three, patent is the most difficult & most expensive to enforce; it's really only designed to protect inventions long enough to bring them to market & make a little coin for a few years, with free market competition expected to take over thereafter. We're talking tens of thousands of dollars & a year or more just to complete the patent process correctly, & then tens of thousands more to enforce it on a per case basis. Often you'll find that there's either nothing about your design that qualifies as patentable in the first place, & that being the case, the system is kind of designed to simply automatically reject anything you submit by default. It takes a solid patent attorney just to make anything happen at all in that regard in the first place.

I don't know anything about your specific designs but I'm going to hazard a guess that there's likely not much you CAN patent even if you had the resources to do it.

Trademark is a little simple, a little cheaper, & a lot easier to enforce as it's fairly cut & dry. There's a bit of weirdness involving local market vs national market issues, & another bit of weirdness involving an established name - generally you get a reasonable bit of protection at the local level automatically even if you've never filed for the trademark, simply by way of having been Doing Business As, provided the name/mark qualifies as trademarkable to begin with. You attorney should be able to walk you through all that relatively cheaply. Note that "rings & cages" is a description of what you are selling & is not going to hold up as a trademarkable name by itself.

Copyright is the cheapest & most streamlined of the three issues, but it also means you generally will find it difficult to recoup any legitimate losses (see: the record industry) despite having the law on your side. Basically what's gonna happen is your attorney will document what is your copyrighted material, then send cease & desist letters to all violators, then file suit against those that fail to respond, & almost universally they're gonna quit at any one of those stages, before it ever goes to court.

PS didn't we cover all this already about 2-3 years ago?
6/29/10 9:47 AM
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Fake Pie
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What I wanted to say has been said already. You need a lawyer if you are going to do anything at all about this. I have some experience threatening patent infringement in similar cases but the client actually had a patent and our firm had patent lawyers who could actually litigate if it came to it.

BLAD covered the IP overview.

You probably won't get a patent (but of course you should ask a patent attorney), but you can maybe do something about the name BS.

Let me know where you are, I know some patent attorneys who may be able to give a referral for a small shop.

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