The modern economy is increasingly idea-based. Businesses of all sizes derive a portion of their value from intellectual property such as trademarks, copyrights, patents, and trade secrets.
At the same time, intellectual property in the Information Age is more vulnerable than ever to misappropriation. But small businesses and entrepreneurs, unlike larger corporations, often do not have the resources to take and sustain complex legal action when their intellectual property is infringed.
Our contingency-fee model gives everyone with a meritorious IP case access to high-quality legal representation.
The Business Trial Group was founded on the principle that everyone with a meritorious case, regardless of their wealth, deserves access to high-quality legal representation. That is why we handle all intellectual property cases on a contingency-fee basis. Our clients pay no up-front legal fees, and no fees at all unless we successfully resolve their claim.
If your copyright, patent, trademark, trade secret, likeness, or online intellectual property was infringed, you should seek the advice of our attorneys.
Intellectual Property Disputes We Handle
The Business Trial Group’s Fort Lauderdale intellectual property lawyers represent clients in disputes involving allegations of:
- Copyright, patent, and trademark infringement
- Misappropriation of trade secrets
- Online intellectual property infringement, including cases involving domain names, cybersquatting, and cyber-privacy
- Misappropriation of corporate names and images in branding disputes
- False advertising
- Unfair or deceptive business practices and unfair competition
- Violations of rights of celebrity, including misappropriation of likeness
U.S. law, as well as Florida law, protects intellectual property, but individuals and businesses often need to aggressively assert their rights when others misuse their creations.
The Business Trial Group will fight on your behalf if your work has been stolen or misused. Learn how we can help during a free case review.
Copyrights, Patents, Trademarks, and Trade Secrets
Copyrights, patents, trademarks, and trade secrets are all used to safeguard intellectual property, but there are key differences between these protections.
Even if you did not formally register your work with the appropriate government agency, it may still be protected under intellectual property laws.
A copyright protects original works of authorship, including:
- Literary, musical, and dramatic works
- Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
- Audiovisual works, such as motion pictures
- Sound recordings
- Architectural works
A copyright does not cover an idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, or principle. It only covers original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium. In other words, nobody may reprint, reproduce, distribute, display, or perform a copyrighted work without the creator’s permission, but a copyright does not protect the subject matter of the work. For example, a written work can be copyrighted, but not the ideas that are expressed in the writing.
Copyrights cover original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium for the lifetime of the author.
Work is copyright-protected the moment it is fixed in a tangible medium, and copyright registration with the U.S. Copyright Office is voluntary. But if you are involved in a copyright infringement lawsuit, registration is required. A copyright generally lasts for the life of the author, plus 70 years after their death.
Patents protect inventions such as:
- Manufactured items
- Industrial processes
- Chemical compositions
- Designs of functional items
Once an invention has been registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), it may not be made, used, or sold in the United States by anyone else for a specified time. The length of the patent varies depending on the type of invention.
- Utility patents are the most common type of patent. They protect the structural and functional aspects of an invention, or an improved product or system. Utility patents last for 20 years.
- Design patents protect the unique appearance of an invention (elements such as shape, color, and packaging). They last for 15 years.
In some cases, patents can be extended. Prior to filing for a full patent an inventor can file a provisional patent (“patent pending”) to work out the finer points of their creation for up to one year. A non-provisional patent, while more complicated to obtain, offers much stronger legal protection when one’s patent is infringed.
A trademark uses words, phrases, symbols, or design to distinguish one product or service from another. Examples of trademarks include:
- The name of a brand, such as Ralph Lauren, or The Business Trial Group
- Symbols such as the McDonald’s golden arches, or the Mercedes logo
- Figures or mascots (e.g., the GEICO insurance talking gecko, or characters from the Star Wars franchise)
- Catchphrases, like the New England Patriot’s trademarking of the phrase “Do Your Job” in the 2014 season, or political slogans, such as “Make America Great Again.”
- Song lyrics
Trademark registration with the USPTO is not mandatory, but it offers additional protections. Trademarks are issued in ten year increments and can usually be renewed indefinitely, as needed. Not all marks are registrable.
Another entity may use your trademark with permission, and typically in exchange for royalties.
A trade secret is information that an individual or business wants to keep private because it provides a competitive advantage. Trade secrets include:
- Product formulas and recipes (such as KFC’s original recipe blend of herbs and spices)
- Software algorithms (such as Google’s search engine algorithm)
- Methods (i.e. “New York Times Bestseller” book list)
- Customer lists
- Marketing strategies
- Manufacturing techniques
Unlike copyrights, patents, and trademarks, formal government registration is not possible for a trade secret. Rather, protection is based on keeping the intellectual property confidential. This often entails only sharing the information with a handful of individuals, and using confidentiality and nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) to help ensure the information doesn’t enter the public domain.
In Florida, misappropriation of a trade secret may result in damages, plus attorneys’ fees.
Intellectual property disputes can also arise over the breach of a confidentiality or nondisclosure agreement that is intended to protect a trade secret. In addition to a breach of contract, misappropriation of trade secrets can occur when information that a party has taken reasonable efforts to protect is obtained through theft, bribery, misrepresentation, or espionage. Misappropriation of trade secrets may even be unintentional.
The Florida Uniform Trade Secrets Act (“FUTSA”) prohibits and defines “misappropriation” of trade secrets. If a Florida court determines that a party has misappropriated a trade secret, it may award various remedies, including damages, injunctive relief, and attorneys’ fees. The statute of limitations for a claim for misappropriation of trade secrets in Florida is three years, so it is important to promptly consult with a knowledgeable attorney.
Intellectual Property Dispute Resolutions and Damages
If someone uses your intellectual property without your permission, you may have a legal claim for damages. The actual damages available depend on the case but can include a calculation of:
- Lost profits
- Disgorgement of profits
- Price erosion
- Unjust enrichment
- Attorneys’ fees and costs
Because the computation and award of intellectual property infringement damages is based in statute and case law, the legal guidance you receive goes a long way towards determining your damages. The Business Trial Group’s experienced intellectual property attorneys are dedicated to pursuing every legal avenue to maximize your recovery.
Contingency-Fee Intellectual Property Litigation in Fort Lauderdale
Wealthier parties may misappropriate your intellectual property and then count on using high legal costs as leverage to deny you fair compensation. But when you hire the Business Trial Group on a contingency-fee basis, your case will be decided entirely on its merits.
You will pay no up-front hourly attorneys’ fees, and if we do not successfully resolve your case, you owe us nothing. We believe that attorneys should only be compensated for results. Our considerable resources allow us to take on very well-funded defendants and obtain justice for our clients.
If your intellectual property was misappropriated or infringed, it is important to take prompt legal action to protect your work. We routinely handle business disputes for clients in Fort Lauderdale and throughout Broward County. Contact the Business Trial Group for a free case review.