A ruling by the Supreme Court has put an end to one practice common to what some professionals in New Jersey and around the country have termed abusive patent challenges. The decision set a new standard for venue in patent cases by ordering that claims must be brought in states where the defendants are chartered. This could result in more security for small businesses or start-ups concerned about the potential costs of patent litigation.
New Jersey residents may not be aware that the names of many common household items were once fiercely protected intellectual property. Thermos, cellophane and aspirin are all used generically today to refer to a broad range of goods, but they were once trademarks associated with specific products. Legislators addressed the issue of genericized trademarks with the passage of the Langham Act in 1946, but the law does not make clear how trademarks should be treated when they become commonly used as verbs rather than nouns.
Companies in New Jersey and around the country are often fiercely protective of their intellectual property, but they may find it difficult to determine how much these crucial business assets are actually worth. Patents for inventions that have never been put into production will generally be less valuable than those for devices that sell well, and patents may increase in value over time as the products they protect gain in popularity. Patents may also lose value if new technology emerges or consumer preferences evolve.
New Jersey businesses understand that customers tend to have loyalty to certain brands, but many businesses do little to monitor their trademarks in order to protect against infringement. Unfortunately, the incidence of trademark infringement has been increasing, potentially harming the bottom lines of their owners.
New Jersey residents may be surprised to learn that the U.S. military holds a wide variety of valuable intellectual property ranging from logos and names to camouflage designs. The U.S. Army, Navy Air Force and Marine Corps earn millions each year from licensing their trademarks and copyrights, and they also all have attorneys on staff tasked with clamping down on infringement. Legal experts believe that a T-shirt offered by the California-based fashion retailer Forever 21 could draw the ire of some of these lawyers as it appears to be a near identical copy of the Army's standard-issue training shirt.