15 Things invented in Texas

Did you know that many of the world’s most famous and useful inventions were created right here in Texas? It’s true!

Read on to learn more about these home-grown innovations.

15. Calculators that Fit in Your Hand

In the 1960s, an electronic desktop calculator was among the most sophisticated machines for doing arithmetic. Texas Instrument revolutionized the landscape with the invention of the first handheld calculator in 1967. Called the Cal Tech, the device was put on the market in 1970.

14. Mary Kay Inc.

Founded in 1963 by Mary Kay Ash, this Addison, Texas company was declared in 2018 to be the world’s sixth-largest network marketing company. Its distributors, who are called beauty consultants, may be rewarded with a distinctive pink Cadillac if they are among the company’s top sellers.

13. The Frozen Margarita

Mariano Martinez was onto something in 1971 when he modified a soft-serve ice cream machine to mix margarita ingredients. Martinez got the idea after visiting a 7-Eleven with a slushy machine. He decided to invent a margarita that could be pre-mixed, frozen and then served whenever it was wanted. Although vendors of frozen drinks were skeptical, Martinez proved them wrong.

12. Shiner Beer

Brewed at the Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, Texas, it’s difficult to name a more iconic Texas brand name. The brewery was founded in 1909 by Kosmos Spoetzl, a Bavarian immigrant. Spoetzl spread the word about Shiner Beer by leaving free bottles of beer on fence posts to be enjoyed by hardworking farmers. Shiner was eventually distributed to Austin and beyond.

11. The Ruby Red Grapefruit

Like many great inventions, the creation of the first ruby red grapefruit was an accident. Grapefruit trees had been cultivated in southern Texas as early as the late 19th century. Growers were constantly experimenting with new varieties, which led to innovations like the pink grapefruit. One day in 1929, a farmer noticed mutated red grapefruit that was growing on a pink grapefruit tree. The flesh of the fruit not only was red but also far sweeter than existing grapefruit varieties.

10. Selective Laser Sintering, or 3-D Printing

Most people probably think that 3-D printing is an ultra-modern invention. Actually, it has its roots in an invention known at selective laser sintering, which was developed by a University of Texas graduate named Carl Deckard. Deckard was still a student when he began working on his invention.

9. Breast Implants

In the early 1960s, two surgeons in Houston noted that a plastic blood bag felt remarkably like the female breast. From this moment, a revolution in the plastic surgery realm was begun.

8. Nachos at the Stadium

The humble yet tasty stadium nacho has its roots in a 1976 Texas Rangers baseball game. Inventor Frank Liberto was doing some experimentation when he discovered that cheese could be dispensed from a pump after being diluted with jalapeno juice and water. The rest is history.

7. Dell Computers

Most people don’t know that Michael Dell, a student at the University of Texas, started his company when he began selling personal computers from his dorm room. Dell never looked back, and now the company boasts more than 100,000 employees.

6. The Integrated Circuit

Texas Instruments inventor Jack Kilby was hard at work in 1958 when he developed the world’s first integrated circuit. The invention was the precursor to the microchip, which was the innovation that made it possible to shrink computers from room-sized to pocket-sized.

5. Dr. Pepper

One of America’s most popular soda brands had its genesis in 1885 when it was served in a Waco, Texas drugstore. Developed by pharmacist Charles Alderton, the product was taken nationwide in 1904.

4. Topsy Tail

Little girls growing up in the 1990s were wild to wear the inverted ponytail style that was made famous in the animated classic Beauty and the Beast. The Topsy Tail made it possible to do so with ease.

3. Fritos

These curly corn chips were invented by Charles Doolin in 1932. Originating in San Antonio, the little chips were a huge hit in Texas before being brought onto the world stage.

2. Liquid Paper

Bette Graham was working as a typist in Texas during the 1950s when she came up with one of the best inventions ever. Her Liquid Paper could erase mistakes with ease, and it quickly became a lucrative product.

1. Whole Foods Market

Now adored across the country, Whole Foods Market was created in Texas back in 1980. Initially called SaferWay, the small vegetarian food store eventually grew to have hundreds of locations.

Contact Williams IP Law

Are you developing the next great idea to come out of Texas? If so, then you need the guidance of an experienced intellectual property attorney. Contact Williams IP law to learn more about how to protect your creation.

Do I need to copyright my website?

Everyone Has a Website

Whether you build a website for personal or business reasons, chances are good that you pour your heart and soul into it. After all, that website is a reflection of you, and it also may be the first contact that your customers have with your business.

After putting so much time and effort into building your website, it makes sense to protect it. This doesn’t occur to many website owners, with the result that they are unable to recover damages when someone else steals their content.

Copyright Content

All of the content that you add to your website is either originally created by you or was created by someone else, like a contractor or employee, who was working for you. This means that you now own that content, whether it’s pages that describe who you are and what you do, blog posts or something else entirely.

Whatever that content is, you own it, and this means that you have the right to prevent others from using it without your permission. When you do see that someone has used your website content without asking you first, a registered copyright gives you the ability to pursue legal remedies.

Automatic Copyright Laws

You may have heard that copyright protection in the U.S. is automatic. This is true. In fact, anything that you fix in tangible form, like a drawing or a recording, enjoys automatic copyright protection in America.

However, this automatic copyright doesn’t necessarily go far enough when it comes to protecting your website’s content. Plagiarism on the Internet is rampant. Plenty of bad actors are out there who will simply copy your content or photographs and paste them onto their own website.

What can you do if this happens?

In this situation, it is best to have a federally registered copyright for your website and all of its content, which includes text, photos and other images. A formal registration demonstrates the date of creation of the content, enabling you to prove beyond a doubt that you are the originator and/or owner of the content.

What Federal Copyright Registration Provides

When you register your copyright, you are formally demonstrating your authorship of the content. If you hired someone to create some or all of your website content for you, then it makes sense to enter into formal agreements with these individuals in which they legally assign their rights in the created material to you. This usually helps to prevent later disputes should they ever arise.

Additionally, when you have registered your copyright, you have the right to pursue a civil lawsuit against an infringer. When a website is under a federal copyright, then the website’s owner may have the ability to claim statutory damages in addition to attorney’s fees if a lawsuit becomes necessary.

Copyright Notice

Whether you pursue a federal copyright registration or not, it is always sensible to include a copyright notice on each page of your website. Usually, such notices appear at the bottom of the page, and they may be as simple as “Copyright 2020.” Other possible copyright notices include ” © 2020″ or “All rights reserved.”

Still other appropriate copyright notices for websites include the name of the company or the individual who owns the website. As an example, the notice may read: “Copyright 2020, the ABC Company.”

While adding copyright notices to your website is not a requirement even if you federally register your copyrights, it is wise to do so to inform any visitors with bad intentions that you are aware of your rights and will defend them.

Ask an Intellectual Property Attorney for Assistance

Are you creating your first website or are you already the owner of several websites and just recently became aware that someone has stolen some of your content? In either situation, it’s wise to contact the Williams IP Law Office in Texas.

Jeffrey Williams helps clients with determining whether or not to federally register a copyright for various content on their websites. Moreover, Jeff can provide assistance with drawing up the various formal agreements that may be needed to ensure that the rights to website content are properly assigned from the author to the website’s owner.

Copyrighting website content in the U.S. is neither particularly difficult nor expensive, but it can be instrumental when it comes to protecting your work from infringement. If you’re serious about ensuring that others cannot take advantage of your hard work, then contact Williams IP Law.

What should you know about music patents?

Is it possible to get a music patent? Patents are one option when it comes to protecting the intellectual property that you create, and they may not be the best choice when you want to protect a song.

Singers and songwriters who are interested in protecting their creations are encouraged to contact an intellectual property attorney who can help them to formalize protection of their work.

Is Music Intellectual Property?

Whether it’s the melody, the lyrics or both, music is intellectual property. Does that mean that you can get a music patent?

Not necessarily. To understand why, it’s critical to know the differences between copyrights, patents and trademarks.

Copyrights vs. Patents vs. Trademarks

Musical compositions and performances and recordings of those compositions are protected by copyrights. Registration of these rights is a simple and inexpensive process, but it grants the holder strong protections. If someone else uses your music without paying you or giving you credit, then you have the right to demand that they stop. These rights extend to lawsuits.

Patents are meant to protect inventions. Items that are suitable for a copyright are original works of authorship, but if you want to get a music patent, then you would essentially have to invent something new.

For instance, if you invented a new musical instrument that was unlike anything that people had seen or heard before, it would be appropriate to seek a patent for it.

Trademarks are set aside for protecting things like brands, slogans and logos. If you were in a band, then you might consider obtaining trademark protection for the band’s name or a logo that you use.

Copyrighting Songs and Recordings

If you want to register your copyright to a song or a recording, the process is easy. Most of it is completed online at the website for the U.S. Copyright Office. If you want to make certain that your application proceeds as smoothly as possible, then it’s wise to work with an IP attorney who can prepare and submit the application.

To do so, your attorney will need some basic information about you as the author of the creation and the work itself. You’ll need to provide data like the name of the song or album, and your lawyer will fill out the online form.

Filing online is more efficient and less expensive, so your attorney likely will use this route unless circumstances dictate that a paper filing makes more sense. Either way, it probably will take several weeks, and perhaps even a few months, to receive a copyright registration.

Is a Copyright Worth It?

When you officially register your work, it creates a public record of your rights and enables you to sue if someone infringes those rights. Depending upon when the registration was obtained, you may be able to claim statutory damages and attorney’s fees in addition to actual damages and profits. Moreover, registration can be recorded with U.S. Customs so that officials can watch out for counterfeit products.

Facts You Should Know About Copyrights

  1. Your work doesn’t have to be published.

Whether you publish your work or not, it can still be federally registered, and therefore is entitled to the full protection of the law.

  1. Your creation is protected for your lifetime and beyond.

Most published works that were fixed in tangible form after January 1, 1978 may be eligible for a copyright that lasts for 70 years beyond the author’s lifetime.

If you work for a company writing songs, then the copyright’s length may be even longer. This means that your songs are considered “work for hire.” Such compositions are entitled to 95 years of protection from the date of publication or for 120 years from the year of creation of the song, whichever deadline expires first.

  1. Protection is automatic.

You don’t necessarily have to register a copyright. In the U.S., your work is copyrighted as soon as it is fixed in a tangible form like writing it down on paper or making a recording of yourself singing it. However, registration gives you far more robust protection under the law.

  1. Sound recordings are not the same as compositions.

Imagine that you are a singer/songwriter. You’ve just written a song and recorded yourself singing and playing the guitar. This means that you may seek two different copyright registrations: one for the composition itself and a second one for your recording. If that song is used on an album or released as a single, then additional copyright protection may be available.

  1. Registration gives you rights.

The copyright holder has the power to rearrange and perform the work any way they wish. They can adapt it, reproduce it or distribute it however they like. It’s even possible to license others to do these things. The upshot is that a copyright registration keeps you in the driver’s seat.

Work with Williams IP Law

At the Williams IP Law, we practice in all areas of intellectual property. This includes patents, trademarks and copyrights. If you are curious about how to protect your rights, call Williams IP Law.

COVID-19 and Pharmaceutical Patent Law

With the COVID-19 pandemic being an issue that is impossible to ignore in recent months, it comes as little surprise that the race to develop a treatment or a vaccine for this virus is at the forefront of the minds of many innovators.

As individuals, companies, universities and governments across the globe strive to develop treatments and vaccines, several questions loom. If someone does develop a successful vaccine, should they be able to patent it? Or, should the formula be made publicly available around the world to allow even the planet’s poorest citizens to have immediate access to it?

While this debate remains at least partially theoretical in advance of the development of a successful treatment or a vaccine, this is an excellent time to examine pharmaceutical patent laws and their effect on the availability of medical treatments and vaccines.

What Is Pharmaceutical Patent Law?

Many people aren’t aware that new drugs frequently are patented by their creators. This means that the company that developed the drug has the right to prevent their competitors from making an identical product, and this means that the patent owner has reserved the right to earn profits from the formula to himself.

Eventually, all patents expire. At this time, which typically is after approximately 20 years, it becomes possible for other drug companies, including those that produce generic versions of medications, to make these drugs and perhaps offer them at a fraction of the price for which the patent owner was selling it.

Pharmaceutical patents are important to companies because it is risky and expensive for these companies to develop new drugs. Years of research, development and testing may be required, and the exclusive period of being able to claim the profits from sales of that drug help the company to recoup its expenses and turn a tidy profit. Moreover, the patent owner has the option of licensing their rights to other companies, which also can signal enhanced profits.

The downside pharmaceutical patents is that sometimes these drugs are incredibly expensive when they are under patent. Accordingly, people with limited financial means may not be able to afford access to critical medications.

If a treatment or vaccine could save lives, is it right to restrict the manufacture of this medicine to a single innovator or to charge a premium price for it?

Pharmaceutical Patent Law in a Pandemic

Over the years, large pharmaceutical firms have used a variety of more-or-less nefarious schemes in an attempt to extend their exclusive hold over patented drugs. With powerful government lobbying departments, they have sought to prohibit or minimize the manufacture of generic drugs.

Observers are concerned that if a major pharmaceutical company does develop a COVID-19 vaccine, that it will do everything it can to complicate access to it. The problem becomes more complex if more than one treatment or vaccine is developed. Then, there may be competing concerns that will make it even harder to dispense effective medicines to the world’s population.

This is why NGOs and certain pharmaceutical companies, along with biotech communities, are pledging to make public the results of their research and development into the treatment and prevention of the coronavirus. Accordingly, such drugs would be provided inexpensively or even at no cost to people around the world.

Similarly, the World Health Organization is lobbying to make research, treatments and vaccines publicly available, while some countries are proposing limited patent rights for treatments and vaccines that include mandatory licensing.

Vaccine Patent Law

Most of the vaccines that are recommended by medical professionals are far older than the typical 20-year term of a U.S. utility patent. This means that they are no longer subject to patent protection. Accordingly, they can be safely and effectively manufactured by a variety of companies without any of these companies running afoul of another’s patent rights.

However, if the currently hypothetical coronavirus vaccine is developed, should the inventor have the right to patent it? Some parties argue that the developer should have the exclusive right to profit from their achievement while others are convinced that the vaccine should be made publicly available to all.

Currently, various efforts are underway to make the vaccine available for the good of the world’s population. Time will tell if these efforts, and the effort to develop a vaccine, are successful.

If you are an inventor or entrepreneur with an innovative idea, then it makes sense to take essential steps to protect your work. Contact the Williams IP Law for an initial consultation to explore your options.

Back-to-School Inventions That Were Revolutionary

Back to School

As autumn draws near, thoughts turn to the upcoming school year. One of the most highly anticipated parts of going back to school is the supplies.

Here’s a look at the invention of some of the most common and best-loved school supplies.

Crayons

Is it possible that Pennsylvania cousins C. Harold Smith and Edwin Binney could have known how popular and timeless their 1903 invention would become?

Of course, this pair of inventors didn’t invent the crayon. That honor belongs to European inventors who created a crayon using a mixture of oil and charcoal. Eventually, pigmented hues would take the place of charcoal, giving artists a rainbow of colors.

The Crayola Crayons that are the staple of every child’s desk were first offered for sale in 1903. Alice Binney, the wife of one of the crayon’s innovators, coined the name “Crayola” from the French word for a stick of chalk “craie” and by shortening the oily word “oleaginous.”

Made from colored pigments and paraffin wax, Crayola Crayons started out with eight colors. Today, there are hundreds of options.

Eraser

The eraser is an indispensable tool in any classroom, but this technology wasn’t as obvious in earlier centuries as it is today. Throughout the decades, people tried a variety of substances to get rid of mistakes written in ink or lead.

A tablet of wax, some rough sandstone or even a piece of soft bread might have been able to obliterate written mistakes in those days. Then, English engineer Edward Nairne tried to use a piece of natural rubber instead of a morsel of bread. The year was 1770, and Nairne began selling rubbers. However, these rubbers had drawbacks like a peculiar odor and a tendency to crumble during use.

Charles Goodyear refined the process of making rubber erasers in 1839 when he developed a process for vulcanization of rubber. This made erasers more durable, and they became a household staple. Inventor Hymen Lipman later patented his idea for attaching an eraser to the tip of a pencil, though the patent later was invalidated.

Nonetheless, the eraser, whether attached to a pencil or not, remains an indispensable tool in the classroom.

Pencil Sharpener

Long gone are the days of needing a knife or sandpaper to sharpen a pencil. Today, students use a mechanical or electric pencil sharpener. It’s much faster and more convenient, but how did we arrive at this marvelous innovation?

It was Bernard Lassimonne, a French mathematician, who received the first patent for a pencil sharpener. The year was 1828, and the device relied on a block of wood inset with metal files set at 90 degrees to each other. Cumbersome to use, the device never caught on.

However, another Frenchman, Thierry des Estivaux, was waiting in the wings with an improvement. This device consisted of a single blade in a cone-shaped housing. Today, this is called a prism sharpener, and it’s still in use.

One of the most important pencil sharpener improvements was created in the U.S. by John Lee Love, an African-American inventor. While working in Fall River, Massachusetts as a carpenter, Love invented the Love Sharpener, the first portable pencil sharpener. Love was able to patent his invention in 1897.

Lunch Box

Choosing the right lunch box is something of a declaration of the carrier’s personality. However, lunch boxes had a much more utilitarian beginning in the 19th century. Those lunch boxes were plain and functional, most often carried by working men, and usually were constructed of metal to ensure durability even in places like mines and quarries.

It wasn’t until 1902 that lunch boxes designed for kids were introduced. These were often made to resemble small picnic baskets, but it wasn’t long before entrepreneurs saw an opportunity.

One of the earliest of these was Walt Disney. His hugely popular animated character, Mickey Mouse, was the first character to be featured on a lunch box. Soon, Hopalong Cassidy and the Lone Ranger, and later the Beatles, the Partridge Family and the Harlem Globetrotters, were showing up on lunch boxes everywhere.

Today, metal lunch boxes are rare as most are now manufactured from molded plastic.

White-Out

Sometimes also called liquid paper, typist Bette Nesmith Graham invented White-Out in 1956. Initially, the substance consisted of tempera paint that was run through Graham’s kitchen blender. She began distributing bottles of her “Mistake Out” to her colleagues.

Two years later, Graham founded the Mistake Out Company, still working in her kitchen and garage. The venture finally became a full-time one, and Graham sold the company to the Gillette Corporation in 1979.

Whether your invention belongs in the classroom, the factory or the operating room, it’s wise to protect it with a patent. Speak with the IP professionals at Williams IP Law to learn more about how to protect your innovation.

What You Need To Know About Textile Patents

The textile industry has always been an innovative one. It’s also one of the oldest industries, dating back nearly to the dawn of civilization.

Despite the long history of textiles, there are still plenty of innovations to be made. These may include a trendy new fabric design that’s the talk of the runways in Milan or a woven fabric that could function as an implantable medical device. Regardless, some form of intellectual property, or IP, protection may be necessary.

A closer look at the history of textiles and its relationship to intellectual property will make this clear.

History of Textiles

From the Latin word “texere,” meaning “to weave,” textiles typically are flexible materials composed of networks of either artificial or natural fibers, which usually are called yarn. The yarn is then pressed, knotted, crocheted, knitted or woven into a textile.

Some of the earliest examples of textile manufacture date back to the sixth and seventh centuries BC in Europe. India was spinning cotton as early as 3,000 BC and was manufacturing silk by 400 AD. Egyptians began spinning and weaving linen around 3,400 BC while the Chinese started spinning silk around 2,600 BC.

Raw wool was the most commonly used textile material for centuries. Some societies also used flax or cotton. Textile operations were small, perhaps just a single cottage in a village where manufactured goods were painstakingly produced by hand.

In the latter half of the 18th century, the dawn of the Industrial Revolution permanently changed the textile manufacturing landscape. Hand production became less prominent during the following decades, and machines powered by steam or water dominated factories across Europe and America.

Innovations like the spinning jenny and the flying shuttle made it easier than ever before to produce mass quantities of textiles. Of course, all of these machines and their component parts needed IP protection, and so did some of the textiles that they were used to manufacture.

Textiles & Intellectual Property

Improvements in the manufacture of textiles go hand-in-hand with IP protection. An inventor who makes a significant improvement on a sewing machine or who builds an entirely new weaving machine certainly will want to seek patent protection for it.

However, other forms of IP protection also may be appropriate. It is possible to protect a new fabric or other textile with a design patent, which is directed to a “new, original, and ornamental design.” Obtaining design patent protection usually is less complicated than obtaining a utility patent, yet it still provides valuable coverage. Any non-functional aspect of the design may be protected, and this protection extends for a period of 14 years.

Alternatively, it may be appropriate to seek a trademark registration for a textile. In the U.S., trademarks function as source identifiers. It is possible for a fabric design as well as a footwear or clothing design to be protected as a trademark. Obtaining a trademark registration for a textile can be tricky as the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office does not consider such designs “inherently distinctive.” Instead, the applicant must demonstrate a secondary meaning or some level of acquired distinctiveness before a registration is issued. A trademark registration can be maintained in perpetuity as long as the registered mark continues to be used in U.S. commerce.

Copyright Protection for Textiles

The other alternative is to seek copyright protection on a new and innovative textile. In the U.S., a copyright protects original works that are fixed in some tangible form. “Useful” articles that perform a basic function are not eligible for copyright protection. Accordingly, a design for a new pair of shoes or an overcoat would not be able to be protected by copyright.

Nonetheless, any original, non-functional design may be able to become a registered copyright. Although registration is not required in order to hold a copyright, it is recommended as it provides the owner with additional opportunities before the law to pursue anyone who infringes the registered copyright.

Contact the Williams IP Law

If you have invented a new and innovative textile or have made an improvement to a machine that manufactures textiles, then it’s wise to consider whether or not formal IP protection may be needed. When you hold a patent, registered trademark or registered copyright, then you may have the right to prevent others from producing a similar textile or copying your manufacturing improvement.

Contact Jeff Williams today to schedule a consultation to discuss this and other IP-related matters.

Oil & Gas Patenting Trends and Innovation

The oil and gas industry has always been an innovative one. Over the decades, drilling for natural resources has required ever-more-sophisticated technology to tap into reserves that were unknown or impossible to exploit for earlier generations.

Consequently, the oil and gas industry has always pursued a multitude of patents. While that remains true, the protected technology has certainly evolved. Keeping up with these trends makes it possible for entrepreneurs and organizations to stay on top of the industry and remain competitive.

Patent Filing Trends

Today, most oil and gas industry patents are focused in areas such as:

  • Earth drilling;
  • Geophysics;
  • Metalworking technologies; and
  • Climate change–mitigation technologies

Earth drilling is by far the most frequently used technology in the field. It comes as no surprise then that most industry patents cover some aspect of this technology.

In an interesting trend, as the world emerged from the Great Recession that began in 2008, patent filings increased overall. However, patent applications in the oil and gas industry did not experience quite the same robust growth rate. Moreover, the focus of these patent applications had definitely switched to the areas listed above, with hydraulic fracturing receiving an even greater emphasis.

Patent Innovation for Hydraulic Fracturing

Hydraulic fracturing, which commonly is referred to as fracking, involves cutting-edge technology in this field. A fracking fluid is pumped into an oil well under extreme pressures. The introduction of the fluid causes underground rock formations to fracture. These fractures stimulate the production of oil and gas.

Fracking techniques may be combined with horitzontal wells to reach previously unobtainable reserves.

Since 2006, oil and gas companies have filed approximately 1,000 patent applications related to fracking technology. The number of filings in this area has steadily increased each year, with the covered technology relating to both the tools and methods that are needed to exploit oil reserves.

Many players in the industry are seeking coverage for other technologies that are related to fracking. These may include systems and tools for monitoring fractures and proppants, finding the best positioning for horizontal drilling operations, controlling the heat resistance of fracking fluids and treating the waste products that are left over from the use of fracking fluid.

Trend in Patent Infringement Cases

As companies in the oil and gas industry have increased the number of patent applications they are filing, the opportunities for infringement have multiplied. Recall that the innovations that are disclosed in a patent application are afforded some level of protection as soon as the application is filed. The U.S. is now a first-to-file country, which means that the first party to file an application for a given technology is regarded as the first to have come up with the idea.

Accordingly, it is possible for patent applicants to begin informing others of their rights whenever they suspect that a competitor is somehow using their proprietary technology. The publication of the patent application, which frequently occurs approximately 18 months after filing, can serve as notice to competitors that they may be infringing.

Key Countries For Oil And Gas Innovation

Research suggests that most oil and gas industry related patents are being filed in the United States, China and Japan. Consequently, it is sensible for inventors or their employers to file patent applications at least in the U.S. to protect their ideas. It also may be worthwhile to consider filing national-phase applications in China, Japan and elsewhere that the technology may be used or infringed upon.

Contact Williams IP Law

The legal professionals at the Williams IP Law have considerable experience in the oil and gas industry. In the course of their practice, they have filed U.S. as well as PCT and national-phase patent applications. Partnerships with other intellectual property attorneys around the world make this a cost-effective and convenient process.

If you have an innovation that you would like to protect with a patent or are concerned that a competitor is infringing your rights in the oil and gas industry then it’s time to schedule a consultation with Jeffrey Williams.

IP Law 101: Patent Trolls and What to do if You Meet One

What Are Patent Trolls?

Patent trolls are a lot like the threatening creatures from fairy tales that guard bridges and demand a high price for access. Rather than trying to develop or market a useful new product or process patent trolls try to earn a profit by accusing others of infringement. Their efforts tie up the U.S. court system with frivolous litigation, stifle innovation and put many small companies and individuals out of business.

A patent provides the owner with the right to prevent others from making, selling or offering for sale the invention described in the patent. Should an individual or company infringe that patent the patent owner has the right to demand that the infringer cease that activity. This can include threatening to file a lawsuit or actually moving forward with filing. Litigation is expensive and risky. Many companies accused of infringement are anxious to settle with the patent holder as long as it keeps them from going to trial. There are various means of settlement. The patent owner may agree to license the patent to the infringer. The infringer may also agree to cease the infringing activity, and may pay an agreed-upon amount to make up for lost sales of the patent holder.

How Patent Trolls Work

Knowing that Texas companies and individuals accused of infringement are typically willing to avoid litigation at all costs, patent trolls make it their business to routinely accuse others of infringement. They pick up patent rights not through innovation and hard work, but by purchasing patent rights from owners who are having difficulty monetizing their invention. The owner agrees to sell the patent to the troll in a last ditch effort to capitalize on their invention. Now that the patent troll owns the patent they are free to aggressively seek out anyone who might be infringing that patent.

It’s never pleasant to receive a threatening letter that suggests patent infringement and the possibility of a lawsuit. In fact, it often leads the recipient to panic. They might consider ignoring the letter or anxiety may push them to immediately capitulate to the patent troll’s demands. The better option is to remain calm and do a little research. An Internet search may reveal that the party behind the lawsuit is an entity known as a patent holding company or patent assertion entity. By looking at public court records and other documents, it should be fairly easy to determine whether or not the letter came from a patent troll.

What to do if confronted by a patent troll

Do Your Research

Start with a basic patent search to get a basic understanding of the patent. There are also resources where you can pull legal dockets surrounding the patent to see if there is a history of litigation surrounding the patent.

Contact a IP Law Attorney

Patent trolls have a couple tactics that have unfortunately worked for them.

  • They will send demand letters can come with a short deadline, this is meant to scare you into answering out of fear.
  • Another tactic is they will mass mail threats to unsuspecting organizations and then focus their attention on the companies that respond.

Just because you received one of these threatening letters it doesn’t mean a lawsuit will even get filed. Let us help you find out what you are dealing with.

Intellectual property attorneys have extensive experience and education that allows them to assess patent infringement claims. They can determine whether or not the infringement claims may have any merit. Moreover, they can engage in correspondence with the patent troll or their legal counsel in which in-depth analysis of the patent claims is conducted. Your patent attorney may be able to prove that your product or process in no way infringes the patent owned by the troll.

Don’t RUSH INTO Settlement

Above all else, don’t agree to a quick settlement, especially if it seems that a patent troll is at work. Like many schemes in the world, patent trolls will likely come back and demand more if you respond too quickly. A much better recommended course is to contact a patent attorney. 

If you suspect that you are being targeted by a patent troll in Texas, contact the Williams IP Law. You don’t have to immediately settle, especially if the claims being made have no merit.