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Intellectual Property Litigation

At a time when globalization and technology are making the world smaller, companies and individuals must protect the value of their ideas now more than ever. Intellectual property law enables you to attain such protection; it fosters human innovation and creativity by ensuring others cannot infringe on the fruits of the creator's labor. In today's marketplace, companies that neglect to safeguard their intellectual property are, at best, destined to lose their competitive advantage, and, at worst, destined to fail.

The difficulty in protecting intellectual property lies in striking an appropriate balance between two competing interests. On the one hand, these laws must grant enough protection to spur innovation. On the other, they must minimize the monopolistic effects that flow from the private ownership of ideas and inventions in the marketplace. Intellectual property law primarily encompasses four types of legal protection: copyright, patents, trademarks, and trade secrets.

Copyright law protects original “works of authorship” that are “original” and “fixed in any tangible medium of expression.” 17 U.S.C. § 102(a). Copyright protection extends to all types of expressive works, including books, music, art, and  film, but it only encompasses the form in which an idea is expressed, not the idea itself. Once protection is granted, the owner enjoys a bundle of exclusive rights, such the right to reproduce, distribute, perform, display, and license the copyrighted work as the owner sees fit. Similarly, patent law protects inventions by excluding others from making, using, or selling something that has already been invented. See 35 U.S.C. § 101. A patent will only be issued if the claimed invention is novel, non-obvious, and useful. See 35 U.S.C. §§ 101­-103. Once approved, the patent owner has the exclusive right to make, use, or sell the invention during the life of the patent.

Trademark law enables companies to protect their brand by safeguarding the distinctive logos, words, and symbols associated with the products and services they offer in the marketplace. This body of federal law, known as the Lanham Act, grants the plaintiff with a cause of action when its "mark" is infringed by a competitor. Apart from trademark infringement, the Lanham Act also proscribes certain forms of "unfair competition" that are equally designed to mislead consumers, which redound to the plaintiff-competitor's detriment. 15 U.S.C. § 1125. Finally, state and federal laws also protect a company's trade secrets—information concerning its processes and know-how that is not generally available to the public—which competitors could unlawfully use to gain unfair advantage in the marketplace. Unlike copyrights, patents, and trademarks, however, trade secrets are not registered at the state or federal level because public disclosure would jeopardize their value.  

Regardless of the form a company's intellectual property, it is paramount to identify and protect this IP at every stage of the innovative life cycle. Barton Cerjak has a substantive understanding of these legal issues, which often arise in the context of a larger dispute between former employees and/or competitors in the marketplace. Call us today to discuss the intellectual property dispute you are facing. 

Representative Matters

  • Lead counsel for the defendant in a copyright infringement action wherein the plaintiffs were seeking millions of dollars in statutory damages and attorneys’ fees; the case resolved under terms extremely favorable to the client once the defendant prevailed on its summary judgment motion, which disposed of plaintiffs’ entire case. See Boehm v. Legends of the Field, LLC et al., Case No. 15-CV-683, 2018 WL 1525716 (W.D. Wis. March 28, 2018).
  • Obtained dismissal on the pleadings of a patent infringement lawsuit against a technology client on personal jurisdiction grounds. See Sonic Foundry, Inc. v. Astute Tech., LLC, Case No. 13-CV-00087, 2013 WL 6148111 (W.D. Wis. Nov. 22, 2013).
  • Advise artists on various facets of copyright protection and compliance as well as business owners on trademark compliance and enforcement.