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FAQ: Intellectual Property

What is "Intellectual Property"?

Intellectual property is a term used for intangible property that belongs to someone or something. Besides individual people, businesses, organizations, and other entities can own intellectual property. Unlike tangible property such as real estate or your automobile, many times intellectual property cannot be seen or physically touched. Instead, intellectual property may be your favorite restaurant's secret recipe, a confidential customer list, an invention you devised, an artist's painting, or even a particular type of dress from a fashion designer.

The bottom line is that intellectual property comes in all shapes, sizes, and forms. Many people would be surprised to learn that they already have protected intellectual property interests without ever consulting an intellectual property attorney. Unfortunately, it often takes some sort of detrimental act against your protected interests, for example theft or misappropriation, before you realize that you even own intellectual property. The good news is that our attorneys are experts at identifying these intellectual property interests and enforcing them against the wrongdoer. We work not only with intellectual property licensing, but with intellectual property related disputes and lawsuits nationwide.

Whether you are cognizant of your intellectual property and want to take the steps to protect it or you believe someone has improperly taken your idea, we can help. Contact our intellectual property attorneys to set up an appointment.

I have an idea, how do I protect it?

Like many legal questions, the short answer is: "It depends." How a person protects an idea depends on what kind of intellectual property that person is trying to protect.

Generally there are five ways to protect an idea:

  1. Patents,
  2. Trademarks,
  3. Copyrights,
  4. Trade Secrets, and
  5. Contracts and Licensing.

The subject matter and nature of your idea will determine the most appropriate choice for protecting it.

At Gunn, Lee & Cave, our attorneys have the necessary experience and background in intellectual property licensing, protection, and disputes to assess your idea and provide you with the proper route for protection. After an initial meeting, we can usually ascertain what needs to be done to protect your idea. However, depending on the technology involved and the complexity of the issues, further research may be required before an accurate assessment can be given. Regardless, we cannot give you proper guidance until we sit down with you and discuss your intellectual property.

If you are interested in pursuing protection, are facing a lawsuit, or have questions about intellectual property law, contact our intellectual property attorneys to setup an appointment. Only then can we tell you which option is best for you. For more specific information on each one of these options, see its section in our FAQ, where each one is discussed separately.

If I already know what to do to protect my intellectual property, why do I need an intellectual property attorney anyway?

If you are willing to take the risk, the honest answer is that you don't. Intellectual property law is just like other areas of law. For example, a person accused of a crime or involved in a dispute can represent himself/herself in court, or, a person can write valid and enforceable multi-million dollar business contracts without an attorney. However, in both of these scenarios and with regard to your intellectual property interests, the real question is whether representing yourself is a good idea. Most of the time, it is not.

At Gunn, Lee & Cave, all our attorneys are formally trained in the law, are licensed by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, and have experience in legal proceedings including intellectual property disputes and lawsuits. Furthermore, some attorneys hold additional certifications that are endorsed by the State Bar. The years of training and hard work required to obtain these qualifications will help to ensure that your intellectual property and interests are properly protected.

People should look at the money spent for an intellectual property attorney as an investment. Paying a relatively small amount of money up front will ensure that your ideas are properly protected for the future. Perhaps more importantly, using our services from the start may save you from lost revenue due to an improper patent, copyright, or trademark. Our intellectual property attorneys know the loopholes and nuances in the law. If you have already put countless hours of work into an idea, why cut corners now and take the risk?

Does Gunn, Lee & Cave only represent clients for intellectual property lawsuits/disputes?

No. Due to the nature of intellectual property many causes of action (i.e., the bases for filing a lawsuit) and issues are interrelated. For example, if an employer stole one of your ideas and then fired you in violation of your employment agreement, you may have an intellectual property cause of action for the theft of your idea and a wrongful termination cause of action because the firing occurred in violation of your employment agreement. Although wrongful termination is not typically associated with intellectual property, our firm could represent you on both matters.

There are some areas of law in which our attorneys do not practice. At Gunn, Lee & Cave we believe that our clients should receive the best representation possible for each of their particular problems. If there is an area of law where we feel uncomfortable representing you, we will let you know and try to recommend someone. Otherwise, if we accept representation, you can be confident that you will be represented to the best of our ability.

How much is it going to cost me?

Unfortunately there is not a clear and definite answer to this question without meeting you and discussing your issues. Our services range in price as do the attorneys' billing rates. As a general rule of thumb, attorneys with more experience typically charge more than someone with less experience. Thus, the amount of money you spend will depend partly upon who you want to represent you. Another factor that affects costs is the nature and complexity of the services you require from us. Complex matters tend to require more time and as a result, more cost to you.

Regardless of the cost, before you determine whether to use our services, we will give you an estimate of the expected costs for our representation. Estimates can sometimes be given over the phone or in our initial meeting. If not, you can expect one soon after our initial meeting. Although these estimates may deviate from the actual cost, they will give you a good baseline amount you can expect to spend. Furthermore, in limited situations we may even elect to take your case on a contingent fee basis, which means our attorneys will not charge you anything unless they win the case for you.