Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Fax: 717-239-0550
email Andrew Mead
Intellectual property traditionally refers to patents, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets.  Intellectual property law is the body of law that strives to balance protection of human creativity and the benefit to society that use of such creativity often provides.  Intellectual property is a form of property.  It can be owned, sold, licensed, and is protected by law.  In some cases, rights in intellectual property are established simply by the intellectual endeavor.  In other cases, rights in the intellectual property must be specifically requested and granted.  The appropriate type of intellectual property protection often depends on nature of the intellectual property itself and there may be more than one type of protection available. 

Patents  |  Copyrights  |  Trademarks  |  Trade Secrets 

A key focus of my practice is assisting clients in acquiring and protecting the value of their commercially valuable creative endeavors.  These endeavors, also known as intellectual property, include  patents, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets.  I assist clients in the following:

  • Counseling regarding intellectual property protection strategies based on an in-depth understanding of the client's business.
  • Counseling on strategies to avoid infringing the intellectual property rights of others.
  • Acquiring intellectual property rights.
  • Licensing intellectual property rights. 
A patent is an exclusive right granted by the U. S. government to inventors that allows them to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, selling, or importing the invention into the United States.  The power to grant patents is constitutionally established, seeking "to promote the progress of science and useful arts."  In exchange for sharing an invention with the public, the government grants the inventor a limited monopoly (patent).  The patent does not give the inventor any rights to actually make, use, or sell the invention, but simply the right to prevent others from doing so.  The patent grant is for a limited duration.  After that period, the invention reverts to the public domain and anyone can freely make use, use or sell the invention.

There are three types of patents:

  • Utility patents may be granted for any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or compositions of matters, or any new useful improvement thereof.  A utility patent can be maintained for up to twenty years from the date on which the application was filed. 
  • Design patents may be granted for a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture. The term of design patent is fourteen years from the date the patent is granted.
  • Plant patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plants.

Copyrights protect original works of authorship by providing authors the exclusive right to reproduce their works.  Copyright protection is available to published and unpublished works.  The protection arises as soon as the work is fixed in any tangible medium of expression from which it can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated.  Copyrightable works include:

  • literary works
  • musical works, including accompanying lyrics
  • dramatic works, including accompanying music
  • choreographic works
  • pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
  • motion pictures and other audio/visual works
  • sound recordings
  • architectural works
Under current copyright law, the term of a copyright for works created after January 1, 1978, is the life of the author plus 70 years.  Terms for anonymous works, pseudonymous works, and works made for hire are the lesser of 95 years from the date of first publication or 120 years from creation.  The duration of copyright terms for works created prior to 1978 varies.  

No formalities are necessary to obtain copyright protection.  However, authors that register their works with the Copyright Office and place a notice of copyright (e.g., ©) on copies of their works are provided certain advantages when enforcing their copyrights under United States copyright law.

Trademarks are words, phrases, symbols or designs, or combinations of words, phrases, symbols or designs, that identify and distinguish the source of the goods of one party from those of others.  Distinction is a critical element in this definition. Trademark rights are typically granted to words or symbols only for a particular category of goods or services, not to the words or symbols in the abstract.  In order to be protected under trademark laws, a mark must distinguish the origin of its associated goods, must do more than merely describe the goods, and not be confusingly similar to marks used by others.  Obscene marks cannot be registered, nor will they be held valid in a dispute.

Trademark rights in the United States are established in two ways: through actual use in commerce under state law and through registration with the U.S. Trademark Office.  Simply creating a mark is insufficient on its own to qualify for legal protection of the trademark.  Once established, the trademark must be used consistently and continuously in commerce to remain valid.  Failure to do so or misuse of the mark can lead to the loss of exclusive rights in the mark.

Trademarks should be designated any time rights in a mark are claimed. Federal trademarks are generally designated by the ® symbol. Federal trademark law limits use of the ® symbol to those marks that have been registered with the U.S. Trademark Office; however, use of the ® is not mandatory.  Non-registered marks are typically signified by a ™ or  SM designation.

Trade Secrets
A trade secret is information that is economically valuable because it is not publicly known nor easily discovered by others and for which the trade secret holder takes reasonable precautions to maintain its secrecy.  No formalities are required to obtain trade secret protection and the protection endures for as long as the information remains secret.

Unlike patents, copyrights, and trademarks which are protected by federal law, trade secrets are protected primarily by state law.  Forty-five states plus the District of Columbia have enacted laws based on the Uniform Trade Secrets Act.

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