Happy New Year!
After a much needed hiatus, we are back and blogging with a vengeance. We have a series already set to run every few days covering all sorts of requested topics and ones that are very relevant to current events! So try to keep up.....we are!
A Quick Reminder: If you haven't done so yet, you may want to register for the Craft & Hobby Show coming up in Anaheim, California February 9-13, 2008. There will be a great trade show and excellent seminars including one by our firm.
This one is for all of you who have ever wondered what can be done with a technique one develops.
In the Hobby & Craft or Do-It-Yourself Industry, techniques sell product. Let's face it, there may be formulation differences, but paint in the end is paint...something to cover and add color to a surface. HOWEVER, the way the paint goes on a surface, what it looks like when it dries, the color variety, etc. comes from the techniques used.
There are two types of techniques - common/public domain and new/proprietary. Common or public domain techniques are those that are well known by the public and used often. These would be using a paint brush and dipping it directly into paint or rubbing a rubber stamp over an ink pad. However, new or proprietary techniques are those that either expand on the common techniques or are brand new. A great example of an expansion of a technique would be rubbing a rubber stamp across an ink pad and then misting the stamp lightly with water before placing it on the surface to create a watercolor effect.
As creative folk, new techniques are created on a daily basis. The key questions are....HOW DO YOU PROTECT A TECHNIQUE? AND CAN YOU USE SOMEONE ELSE'S TECHNIQUE?
HOW DO YOU PROTECT A TECHNIQUE?
The short answer...A PATENT. For the purposes of this blog, we will only focus on a Utility Patent. Utility Patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement. A technique is a process...therefore...a patent is in order.
A patent for an invention is the grant of a property right to the inventor, issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Generally, the term of a new patent is 20 years from the date on which the application for the patent was filed in the United States or, in special cases, from the date an earlier related application was filed, subject to the payment of maintenance fees. U.S. patent grants are effective only within the United States, U.S. territories, and U.S. possessions.
The right conferred by the patent grant is the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling” the invention in the United States or “importing” the invention into the United States. What is granted is not the right to make, use, offer for sale, sell or import, but the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, selling or importing the invention.
Techniques are generally covered by patents. Copyright or trademark laws would cover the final look or a new given to the technique. Therefore, whenever a new technique is created, if the creator truly wishes to protect it, patent law applies. The next blog in this series will look at what is necessary to apply for a patent.
CAN YOU USE SOMEONE ELSE'S TECHNIQUE?
This is a loaded question...truly! If there is a common technique...then absolutely. The technique is in the public domain, and can be used.If not, the world wouldn't be able to go around. However, the new technique is a different issue. If the technique is not covered by patent, then technically...it can be used. HOWEVER, there are several cautions. Patent Law is complicated and whether a technique is patentable or eligible for patent protection is a long process. It is also very difficult to search the patent records to determine if there is a patent on a technique. That is why the area of patent law is a highly specialized field of law.
Some artists and others believe that it is acceptable to copy a technique as long as credit is given. While giving credit is nice, that does not excuse copying a technique if it is protected. Since using a technique is a difficult question to answer and truly a "case by case" issue, these are some general guidelines:
1) Is the technique covered under a patent?
2) Who created the technique and can you obtain permission?
3) Where did you learn the technique - could it be covered under a confidentiality agreement or trade secret?
4) Does the technique create a finished product that would be covered under copyright or trademark protection?
It is also VERY important to point out that many times the instructions to a technique are covered under copyright protection. Therefore, the technique may or may not be protected, but the writing may be protected.
The copying of a technique is a risky option, just like copying in general. Therefore, the "Golden Rule of Intellectual Property" applies - "When in doubt, leave it out!"
This is a very complicated subject and we have truly only touched a small amount of the surface. However, your comments and questions are more than welcome. Please leave them in the comments section and I will try my best to answer them for everyone to see.
Here's to a great new year of creativity!
Create with Your Heart and Your Head!