Differences Between Patent Engineers, Patent Agents and Patent Attorneys

The Inventors Expertise

Inventors frequently are experts in their particular field. They understand the pertinent technology, and they have developed an innovation that may revolutionize the field.

It’s only natural for this individual to want to obtain a patent on their invention. Occasionally, inventors are tempted to draft a patent application and to try to prosecute it without assistance. This generally ends up being a costly error.

Although the inventor possesses incredibly detailed knowledge of their invention, they do not have any training or experience when it comes to writing a proper patent specification. Moreover, they likely do not have the legal knowledge that is necessary to complete prosecution. This lack of experience and knowledge may cause them to make a fatal error that precludes them from obtaining any patent protection.

Working with a professional in the intellectual property field can help to prevent this situation. It also ensures that you don’t end up with a patent that is so broad that it is essentially meaningless or with one that is so narrow in scope that it doesn’t provide any protection.

Most of these professionals work in intellectual property law firms. Patent engineers, patent agents and patent attorneys all may work together to ensure that your invention gets the legal protection that it deserves. What are the differences between these patent professionals?

Patent Engineers

A person who works as a patent engineer must have considerable specialized knowledge in a scientific or technical field. While they have not passed the patent bar and are not a lawyer, they still are able to perform numerous essential functions.

Patent engineers may perform searches in various databases to discover prior art for a particular invention. This may help with a decision regarding whether or not patent protection may be available for a certain innovation. The engineer may write reports or even provide much of the detail for the specification of the patent application.

Occasionally, the patent engineer works closely with the inventor to better understand the new product or process so that it can be adequately described in the specification.

Patent Agents

Like patent engineers, patent agents have a great deal of knowledge in scientific or technical areas. It’s not unusual for these professionals to hold a graduate degree or a Ph.D. Moreover, they have passed the Patent Bar Exam before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. This qualifies them to file patent applications, advise clients as to the patentability of their inventions and to assess prior art.

While patent agents are qualified to handle almost any patent prosecution matter before the USPTO, they are expressly prohibited from providing legal advice. Accordingly, clients who need legal counsel for any business-related matter that is connected to their pursuit of a patent will need to work with a patent attorney.

One of the main advantages of working with a patent agent as opposed to a patent attorney is the cost. Their hourly rates tend to be more affordable.

Patent Attorneys

A patent attorney is essentially a patent agent who also holds a legal degree. Like engineers and agents, these attorneys must have formal education in a scientific or technical area. This may include a Bachelor of Science, Master of Science or a Ph.D. These professionals then attend law school, and they must pass the bar exam in the state where they intend to practice.

Next, they must pass the Patent Bar Exam to practice before the USPTO. With their education and background, patent attorneys are prepared to handle all facets of patent prosecution. This may include litigation if a patent is being infringed.

While it may cost more to hire a patent attorney than a patent agent, it is typically worth the expense. Working with a patent attorney provides you with all of the knowledge and skill that you’ll need to negotiate the process of pursuing patent protection.

As all of these patent professionals typically are employed by an intellectual property law firm, it is likely that an inventor may encounter at least two and perhaps all three of these professionals. Each one is working toward the same goal of obtaining the broadest, most meaningful and enforceable protection that is available for your invention.
Author: Jeff Williams

Jeff Williams is an experienced mechanical engineer and lawyer that consults closely with clients in a strait forward and clear manner. He brings a particular set of strengths and unique perspectives to the firm.

Jeff received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Arizona State University in 2005. He was an engineer for a number of years at a number of large corporations before pursuing his law degree. He graduated from Texas A&M University School of Law (formerly Texas Wesleyan University School of Law) with a J.D. in 2010. By combining his education and prior work experience into the field of intellectual property law, Jeff has developed key skills to fully assist clients.

Lego Builds a Winning Case

The Lego Group

Lego is one of the largest toy manufacturers in the world, and they popularized the idea of creating building blocks and small construction pieces to create magnificent figures and products. Lego is being used also for engineering and robotics, and they have been funding for technological inventions that are using their products as a prototype. The Lego Group, which is the mother company of Lego, is based in Denmark, and the company started to operate back in the year 1949, four years after the Second World War ended. As of the year 2015, the company is proud to say that they have already manufactured their 600 billionth piece. The company’s influential in the toy manufacturing industry allowed them to become recognized as one of the most powerful brands in the world by Brand Finance, replacing Ferrari in the process.

The popularity of Lego across the world spawned different theme parks and amusement centers that are catered to the children and the adults. The Lego Group is gaining a lot of money from these ventures, but they are also facing losses partly because of copyright infringement. Because of the popularity of the toys that they create, many counterfeit products have entered the market. These fake products are being sold at lower prices, and the target markets are the poor people from Africa, Asia, and South America. The Lego Group started to flex their arms against those who continually make fake products that carry their brand name and copying their designs for profit.

More information about copyright infringement

Copyright Infringement is the unlawful copying of a product or services that is patented without permission from the owners. It is a massive problem in China, and many small manufacturers in the country are creating fake products that are sold in the black market. Other manufacturers in China are copying the design of shoes, clothes, and even devices, and they are putting a different brand name into it and then selling it to the public. The problem concerning the manufacturing of fake products is widespread, and the government of China decided to control the issue by giving a warning to those who will continue to do the practice. However, people are not listening to their government, and they still continue making these products because of the high demand in the market.

Lego’s market in China

Lego has a huge market in China, and the Lego Group even decided to build a manufacturing facility in the country to take advantage of their affordable labor. The Lego Group is also planning to build a Legoland theme park in Shanghai, China to cater to their Chinese customers. Lego is also earning huge in the country, and because of the support from the public, The Lego Group was able to expand in the country, opening 140 shops in more than 30 cities across the country. In 2017, The Lego Group was able to generate a $1.1 billion profit, and the Chinese market contributed a lot to this figure.

Lego wins big over the last two years

The Lego Group filed a case against four Chinese manufacturers that are creating toys that pose huge similarities with Legos. The court in China directed the manufacturers to pay The Lego Group more than $600,000 in damages. This is not the first time that Lego is involved in infringement cases. In the past, they have also run after those who are trying to copy their designs and filed cases that gave them the edge in the toy manufacturing industry. The Lego Group stated that the battle against fake products will continue, and they will use all of their networks and resources to stop these people from copying their well-beloved colorful blocks.

How Lego would face other companies that would try to copy their products and services

The Lego Group provided a clear warning to those who will continue creating fake products and copying their design – they will never stop until justice has been served. The company wanted to dominate the market, and they will stop anyone who will pose a threat against their properties.


The Lego Group continues to manufacture colorful blocks that appeal to all ages. The company is also growing steadily, touching down new markets and expanding on the existing ones.

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Amazon Acknowledges Counterfeit Problem on Marketplace Platform

Amazon is one of the top retailers in the world, second only to Walmart. It generates billions of dollars in revenue each year, but only about half of that revenue comes from Amazon itself selling products.

The other half of the company’s revenue is generated by Amazon Marketplace sales. Marketplace operates like eBay in that it provides a platform on which buyers and sellers may meet and conduct transactions. Amazon isn’t involved in the process, but they do collect a fee from each sale as their due for hosting the transaction.

It’s a smart business model, but it doesn’t come without risk. In its annual 10-K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the retail giant mentioned for the first time the risks that come with enabling the sale of potentially counterfeit products.

What Are Counterfeit Products?

Counterfeit consumer goods, which also may be referred to as knock-offs, are products that are sold under the brand name of a person or entity that did not actually authorize or manufacture the product. Counterfeiters hope to make easy money by selling merchandise that they purport to come from a reputable company. Unfortunately, what they are selling typically is of inferior quality.

This is a major financial and reputational problem for the maker of the authentic goods. Too frequently, consumers don’t realize that what they are buying isn’t the genuine article. When they receive an item that quickly falls apart or doesn’t function as advertised, they blame the maker of the brand-name item, which didn’t have anything to do with the counterfeit.

This is a headache for big-name companies, but it can be absolutely disastrous for start-ups and other small companies. Large organizations more frequently have the deep pockets that may be necessary to combat counterfeit goods. However, small businesses don’t have those resources. The reputational damage that they suffer as a result of counterfeiting may destroy them.

Counterfeits on Amazon

Amazon’s main business model is to buy products from manufacturers wholesale so that these items can be sold to customers at a discount. Accordingly, they have measures in place to ensure that they aren’t contracting to buy knock-offs. When consumers purchase an item that comes from the Amazon Retailer tier of the business, they can rest assured that they probably are getting the real thing.

That changes when consumers are dealing with Amazon Marketplace. Although Amazon says that they try to take steps to ensure the authenticity of the goods on the Marketplace, it is ultimately only the seller’s word that backs up the items they sell. When consumers receive products that clearly are inferior, both Amazon and the purported manufacturer get the blame.

Amazon’s Form 10-K Annual Report

Each year, Amazon files a Form 10-K with the Securities and Exchange Commission, reporting their year-end earnings for the prior year. In the report covering 2018, Amazon added a notation to shareholders that acknowledges that the sale of counterfeit items on the platform is a risk.

Amazon further acknowledged that they may not be able to prevent nefarious sellers from receiving money for transactions in which buyers never receive a product or when the consumer receives a product that is demonstrably different from the advertised product.

This is the first official acknowledgment from Amazon that counterfeit consumer goods are a growing problem. However, manufacturers like Williams-Sonoma, Daimler AG and Elevation Lab have long been complaining that the retailer isn’t doing enough to curb the sale of counterfeit items on its website.

In addition, Williams-Sonoma and Daimler have filed trademark infringement lawsuits against Amazon based on the appearance of their registered marks on advertisements for counterfeit products.

Another startling claim has emerged from Apple, which says that it believes that fully 90 percent of the items sold on Amazon that purportedly come from Apple are actually fakes.

Amazon finally is acknowledging that it has a counterfeit problem, but it doesn’t yet have an effective means for eliminating it. This means that it is up to the manufacturers of legitimate goods to protect their reputation and revenue by seeking intellectual property protection. Obtaining and enforcing official patent, trademark and copyright coverage are among the most effective tools that organizations can use to protect their interests.

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Author: Jeff Williams

Jeff Williams is an experienced mechanical engineer and lawyer that consults closely with clients in a strait forward and clear manner. He brings a particular set of strengths and unique perspectives to the firm.

Jeff received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Arizona State University in 2005. He was an engineer for a number of years at a number of large corporations before pursuing his law degree. He graduated from Texas A&M University School of Law (formerly Texas Wesleyan University School of Law) with a J.D. in 2010. By combining his education and prior work experience into the field of intellectual property law, Jeff has developed key skills to fully assist clients.

Social Media Username Jacking

The Joys of Social Media

Social media represents a wonderful opportunity for businesses to connect with their customers and to get the word out about specials, promotions and new products. It seems like there are new social media platforms cropping up all the time, and though it probably isn’t necessary to join them all, it certainly makes sense to choose one, two or even three that align comfortably with your company’s image and the product or service that it provides.

However, what do you do when you discover that another entity or individual has already registered your preferred company name on a particular social media platform? Sometimes this is merely the result of two companies having similar names. At other times, another user has registered your company name in a scheme known as username jacking.

What Is Username Jacking?

In some ways, username jacking is a bit like domain squatting. An entity or individual scoops up likely domain names for well-known celebrities or brands then hopes to cash in when said celebrity or brand wants to take over the domain for their own use.

The Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy, Or UDRP, is the accepted mechanism for resolving disagreements over the registration of domain names. However, there is no such mechanism in place when someone sets up a fake social media account using your name or the name of your business. Sometimes, these accounts are set up with the goal of criticizing your company. On other occasions, someone is seeking to malign your good name. It also is possible that another entity, perhaps your competitor, wants to make it difficult for you to gain prominence on that social media platform.

The idea of some unknown entity using your name to make social media posts can be troubling. There’s always the chance that your customers will see that username and believe that it belongs to you. You definitely don’t want to deal with any fallout from customers believing that they are interacting with you when they are actually interacting with someone who’s only pretending to be you.

What Can You Do About Username Jacking?

It’s vital to protect your intellectual property, especially since your name and brand help to solidify your reputation in the minds of consumers. When you find that someone has jacked your username, go straight to the complaint department for that social media platform. Their terms of use probably set up guidelines for complaining about false accounts. Some platforms have more clear-cut rules than others. Accordingly, this may not provide all of the help that you need. If the rules are sufficient, then the administrators at the social media platform will likely shut down or transfer the rogue account to you.

However, if the administrators say that they cannot help you and the owner of the account ignores your demands, then you may be forced to file a lawsuit. This may seem like an extreme response, but it also is a response that gets noticed. It typically is not advisable to sue the platform itself, as the administrators will argue that they generally are not responsible for posts made by users. Your intellectual property attorney will probably recommend suing the individual or entity behind the bogus account, a process that may involve subpoenaing the social media platform for data concerning the owner.

Speak with an Intellectual Property Attorney

A lawyer who focuses their efforts in this area of law is uniquely qualified to guide you through the process of identifying and potentially suing someone who is misusing your name or brand in the cyber world. While there is not as yet a great deal of case law in this area, legal precedent is growing by the year. Contact a skillful attorney today to learn more about the options that may be available to you.

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Author: Jeff Williams

Jeff Williams is an experienced mechanical engineer and lawyer that consults closely with clients in a strait forward and clear manner. He brings a particular set of strengths and unique perspectives to the firm.

Jeff received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Arizona State University in 2005. He was an engineer for a number of years at a number of large corporations before pursuing his law degree. He graduated from Texas A&M University School of Law (formerly Texas Wesleyan University School of Law) with a J.D. in 2010. By combining his education and prior work experience into the field of intellectual property law, Jeff has developed key skills to fully assist clients.

Protecting the IP of a Galaxy Far, Far Away

Star Wars and Intellectual Property

What is a trademark? Perhaps just as importantly, do common law trademark rights extend to protect many of the familiar elements in a work of fiction like a novel or a film?

These are some of the questions that Lucasfilm and a game manufacturer in the UK called Ren Ventures are currently in intellectual property ligitgation to answer. Lucasfilm is hoping to get similar answers to the ones that courts gave when trademark rights were extended to “kryptonite” from the Superman comics and the “General Lee” car from The Dukes of Hazzard television show. Ren Ventures is hoping that a certain element in Lucasfilm’s Star Wars universe will not be entitled to this protection. Exactly why are these two companies engaging in costly litigation?

History of Sabacc

Back in 1980, Lucasfilm drafted a screenplay for a movie called Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back. This early draft contained a reference to Sabacc, a gambling card game in which Han Solo is supposed to have won the Millennium Falcon spaceship from Lando Calrissian.

Sabacc pops up again in a trio of Lando Calrissian novels, the first of which was released in 1983. The rules of Sabacc are explained in great detail in the books, including that the object of the game is to obtain a score that’s close to positive or negative 23.

It is only the true devotees of the Star Wars universe who are likely to remember what Sabacc is, and the number of people who read the Lando Calrissian novels closely enough to recall the rules of the game is even smaller. However, it seems that the people at Ren Ventures were paying attention. Their attention was so avid that they noticed that Lucasfilm had never sought formal trademark protection for the mark SABACC.

The Legal Argument

Ren Ventures clearly felt that this left a door open, as in 2015 they released a mobile game that they called Sabacc – The High Stakes Card Game. The rules are identical to those used in the Lando Calrissian books, and the marketing material for the game uses numerous Star Wars-related references.

By 2016, Ren Ventures had secured a U.S. trademark registration for the mark SABACC for goods including an online computer game. Lucasfilm evidently heard about the registration, because the company filed a petition to cancel the registration with the U.S. Trademark Trial and Appeal Board in 2017. Ren Ventures responded to the petition, at which point Lucasfilm suspended the proceedings in favor of a lawsuit for infringement of trademarks and copyrights.

It’s true that Lucasfilm never filed a trademark application for the mark SABACC. Was this shortsighted of them? Consider that over the decades, the Star Wars universe has become vast. It contains millions of details like the gambling game Sabacc. Protecting them each individually with federal registration is economically unfeasible. Plus, it’s hardly as if they company was using SABACC as a trademark. They would have to sell goods or offer services under the name Sabacc to have protection, wouldn’t they?

That’s the angle that Ren Ventures seems to be arguing in their case with Lucasfilm. They say that Lucasfilm wasn’t using the word in a trademark sense, which should virtually make it fair game for someone else to use. Naturally, Lucasfilm doesn’t see it that way. They have created a widely recognized fictional world that enjoys copyright protection and, arguably, common law trademark protection. Lucasfilm believes that their rights to SABACC should be recognized as one more element in a universe that legally belongs to them.

The intellectual property litigation is still in its early stages. Accordingly, it’s unknown how the court will rule and whether or not Lucasfilm will prevail. The Sabacc game and its rules are not nearly as recognizable as “kryptonite” or “The General Lee,” but with a property as well-known as Star Wars, it would not be shocking if the court found in their favor.

Author: Jeff Williams

Jeff Williams is an experienced mechanical engineer and lawyer that consults closely with clients in a strait forward and clear manner. He brings a particular set of strengths and unique perspectives to the firm.

Jeff received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Arizona State University in 2005. He was an engineer for a number of years at a number of large corporations before pursuing his law degree. He graduated from Texas A&M University School of Law (formerly Texas Wesleyan University School of Law) with a J.D. in 2010. By combining his education and prior work experience into the field of intellectual property law, Jeff has developed key skills to fully assist clients.

The Basics of Intellectual Property

The most valuable asset that any business owns is its intellectual property. However, many business owners, especially novice entrepreneurs, aren’t clear about what intellectual property is and how to protect it. The clarity they need can be gained by working with a patent and trademark attorney.

What Is Intellectual Property?

Intellectual property, or IP, can cover numerous assets. Perhaps it’s a new product or service. Intellectual property also may be a business’ name or logo. The code that goes into software or point-of-sale materials may similarly be intellectual property. Accordingly, IP can be things that are created by the human mind, the design of a new product or a symbol that shows which company makes a product.

How Do You Protect IP?

Several protection methods are available. The method that you use depends upon what you’re protecting and what form of protection you need. Inventions typically are protected with a patent while a logo, brand name or slogan is protected with a trademark. Copyrights are used to protect literature, artwork and other creations that take tangible forms. Trade secrets defend recipes, formulas, proprietary methods or unique devices.


When someone invents a new product, they may pursue patent protection. A patent doesn’t give you the right to make or sell that product. Rather, it gives the patent holder the right to prevent others from making, selling or using a product that is covered by the patent. Some of the standards by which a patent application is reviewed include whether or not the claimed item is new, not obvious to a person with skill in the industry and useful.

The typical term for a U.S. patent is 20 years from the date of filing the application. Patent protection additionally may be available in foreign countries if the patent holder will be making or selling their products overseas.


A registered trademark identifies the source of a product. It’s possible to register a trademark for a single word, a phrase or a logo. Logos can include words as well. A trademark tells consumers who made the product. With a registration, it’s possible to stop others from using a confusingly similar mark in the same or a related industry. Trademarks that rely on a fanciful word or a word that does not have a readily apparent connection to the product or service being sold tend to be the strongest. Trademarks that merely describe the product or service may not be entitled to registration.

As with patents, it is possible to pursue trademark protection in other countries. U.S. and foreign registrations typically must be renewed every 10 years, and there is no limit on the number of renewals.


A book, movie, photograph or computer code are all examples of items that can be protected by copyright. The protection is only available to things that can be reduced to tangible media. Accordingly, it is not possible to copyright an idea or a process. Someone who holds a copyright has the exclusive right to reproduce and distribute the protected work, rights which may be licensed to others.

Copyrights on works published after 1977 typically last for the lifetime of the author plus 70 years. If the work was produced within the course of employment, then the term is between 95 to 120 years, depending upon when the work was published.

Trade Secrets

When a patent application is published or a patent is issued, it becomes public knowledge. The patent holder has the right to exclude others from taking advantage of this technology, but only for a limited time period. If a company has a formula, recipe or process that they want to keep private for as long as possible, then they hold it as a trade secret. They must make ongoing, reasonable efforts to maintain the secrecy of this item to prevent it from being exploited by others.

Which Type of IP Protection Is Best?

Any type of protection can be helpful to a business. They can protect their inventions with patents and their logo with a trademark. A proprietary process can be covered by a trade secret while publications related to the business can be protected by copyrights.

The best way to determine which type of IP protection is needed is by working with an intellectual property attorney. Such an attorney can file patent and trademark applications with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office or a copyright application with the U.S. Copyright Office. Schedule a consultation to learn more.

Author: Jeff Williams

Jeff Williams is an experienced mechanical engineer and lawyer that consults closely with clients in a strait forward and clear manner. He brings a particular set of strengths and unique perspectives to the firm.

Jeff received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Arizona State University in 2005. He was an engineer for a number of years at a number of large corporations before pursuing his law degree. He graduated from Texas A&M University School of Law (formerly Texas Wesleyan University School of Law) with a J.D. in 2010. By combining his education and prior work experience into the field of intellectual property law, Jeff has developed key skills to fully assist clients.

What Are Image and Personality Rights?

Famous Cases Featuring Image Rights Violations

Certain image and personality rights cases make headlines from time to time. One of these occurred in 2014 when Hollywood actress Kathryn Heigl sued the Duane Reade pharmacy inside Walgreens after the company captured and used an unauthorized image of her for promotional purposes. The actress had simply visited the pharmacy in New York one day. An enterprising individual snapped her picture, and the company subsequently tweeted the image on their Twitter account. Heigl sued and the case was settled when the company agreed to make a donation to the charity of Heigl’s choice.

Also in 2014, basketball great Michael Jordan sued Jewel Foods over the use of his name and image in advertisements for the grocery store chain. Jordan had already won an almost nine-million dollar award from a prior personality rights violation case involving another grocery store chain, Dominick’s. The outcome of the prior case inspired Jewel Foods with an urge to settle the claim quickly. Jordan donated all proceeds to charity.

Image Rights in the US

One of the most interesting, and least understood, components of intellectual property law relates to image and personality rights. Perhaps this is because the U.S. seems to be somewhat behind the U.K. and Europe when it comes to protecting these valuable rights. In fact, there is no federal law in the U.S. that specifically protects a person’s image or personality. What we do have are various state laws and a reliance on common law.

Texas only uses common law to protect a person’s image rights. While this may not seem sufficient to protect an individual when their likeness is used without permission, it is actually quite effective. Mountains of case law provide the necessary precedent for people to be able to control how they are presented in the public sphere.

What Are Image Rights?

The concept of image rights argues that every individual has the right and ability to decide how their picture, name or voice is used. Image rights often are of most concern to athletes in the U.S., Europe and across the globe. For instance, football players in Europe will often sign over some portion of their image rights to their team. The team hopes to profit through use of the player’s likeness, name and signature on merchandise. However, the player will want to keep as much of their image rights as they can. This gives them the ability to seek sponsorship elsewhere, which often is a lucrative arrangement.

Some celebrities in the U.S. and elsewhere have resorted to obtaining a trademark registration for their image, signature and other representations. This federal protection gives them the right to sue infringers for misuse. It also ensures that no one can profit from the use of their likeness without a license. Doing so could easily result in a lawsuit.

What Are Personality Rights?

Most frequently, personality rights are asserted by celebrities who find that their image, voice or other representation is being used to advertise or endorse a product. If the celebrity has no actual connection to the product and did not supply their consent to use of their image, then they have the right to sue for damages.

Essentially, personality rights fall into two main divisions: the right to publicity and the right to privacy. The right to publicity refers to the individual’s ability to protect their likeness from being used for profit without their permission or appropriate compensation. The right to privacy refers to an individual’s right to not be exploited. For instance, a celebrity might sue a company that uses an image of them taken when they were merely performing routine acts like going to the grocery store or the pharmacy. If the grocery store then tries to use that image in its advertising as an implied endorsement by the celebrity, then the store may be subject to legal action.

Typically, the offending company is forced to stop using the advertisements in question. Damages may be due to the individual whose personality was exploited.

Even people who aren’t famous have the right to protect the use of their image, name, signature and other likenesses. If you’d like to learn more about this and other intellectual property matters, contact the Williams IP Law.

Caught Red Handed

china patent theft

The theft of American Intellectual Property by China costs the U.S. hundreds of billions annually.

For decades China has been pilfering U.S. Intellectual Property. To this day, they continue to steal IP at record breaking levels using sometimes nefarious means. Many electronic goods from China include back doors that allow hackers to enter the devices and grab potentially sensitive information, documents, photographs and more. Their electronic measures to grab U.S. intellectual property is on the rise and very well documented by numerous sources. But there are also more legitimate, though just as unsavory methods, by which they gain access to US technology. Despite getting caught red handed, there seems to be little done about the problem.


In August of 2017 President Trump as the office of US Trade Representative to investigate China’s attack on America’s Intellectual Property. A little over 7 months later and the results are in and the US Trade Representative’s office stated that Chinese theft of American IP costs between $225 billion and $600 billion annually. In March 2018 the administration formulated a response.

President Trump placed tariffs on $50 Billion worth of Chinese goods. President Trump stated this was in response to “the unfair and harmful acquisition of U.S. technology.” Most of the news focused on which products and industries were going to be hit by the tariffs, whether they were fair or not, and who was the winner or loser.

Granted some products might cost the average US consumer more in the future, the real message was lost to the masses – the real message was a warning shot about unfair IP practices – something that in the end will save every American consumer and worker.

The real message to the Chinese was that if we can’t stop you, we will at least make you pay in other ways.

IP theft costs the US billion annually as well as thousands of jobs lost overseas. These are important skilled position jobs that the US really wants to keep. According to a 2017 report from the Commission on the Theft of Intellectual Property, annual costs of IP theft is in the hundreds of billions. This fits in line with another report by a US Trade Representative that advised the Trump administration that “Chinese theft of American IP currently costs between $225 billion and $600 billion annually.”

Chinese companies try to acquire American technology by any means possible, be it illicit or quasi-legitimate. Espionage and theft are big parts of the problem, but many conditions are put on companies who want to do business in China. What business doesn’t want inside the Great Wall with billions of potential customers? This however often comes with a hefty price. Many companies are forced to do technology transfers or mandatory joint ventures as a condition for getting to do business in China. So companies may have a new large audience for their product, but their IP is laid bare for exploitation as a result. Forced technology transfers have especially been a burden for US tech firms.

Yet another method of acquiring US technology is the new Chinese cyber security policy. Under the guise that technology could be used against the government and national security, the new law allows China to conduct security reviews of technology products. It is also said that the measure is to help combat online fraud and strengthen the personal protection of Chinese citizens. However, despite the intentions or excuse for the law, the new law means that Chinese officials with dubious intentions would be allowed to go line by line through source code or engineering diagrams or review other proprietary or sensitive information.

Overall, these concerns create unfair advantages for Chinese companies while at the same time creating barriers for US based companies.

As people debate steel tariffs and other recent political moves – one must remember that China is the “world’s principal IP infringer” and any tariffs and penalties are more than what they appear to be on the surface.

What are your thoughts on the recent tariffs and Chinese IP theft? Let us know! And if you want to protect your patent, copyright, or any other intellectual property, let us know. Williams IP Law provides foreign IP protection, not only US.