It is becoming more and more difficult to protect your work or invention. There was a time when getting a trademark was much easier and cheaper. It cost between $4 and $5 back in 1790 but that has changed. At the same time as it has become more difficult to obtain protection, fraud has increased. About 15% of all pharmaceuticals in the United States are fakes according to the Food and Drug Administration. Copyright infringement is a big problem, too. It costs the economy at least $58 billion each year. This is both from the loss of revenue to the owners of the copyrights ($16 billion) and then the loss of tax revenue ($3 billion).
Trademark protection is another issue. If you are looking to get something trademarked or find yourself in a dispute over an existing trademark, you may need to consult a trademark attorney. But how do you find one? This may not be an area where you have a lot of experience. Here are some tips to make that process easier.
The trademark attorney you hire does not have to live near you. In many intellectual property law cases, such as an appeal of an existing trademark decision, the filings can be made from any part of the country. You may prefer to see someone near you but if you find someone in another state that you really like, they can probably help you.
- Remember that lawyers specialize. Just like doctors, lawyers specialize in the areas of law in which they practice. Your brother’s divorce attorney is not going to be able to help you with your trademark case. Make sure your trademark attorney is very experienced in trademark law. Even in the realm of intellectual property law, there are different sub-specialities such as copyright, trade secret and patent law. Each of these is becoming more and more complicated and one lawyer who practices them all may only spend a small fraction of their time dealing with trademark cases. Ask each trademark attorney you talk to how much of their caseload and how much of their time is spent on this kind of law. You need them to be specific and not just tell you they know the law. They may just think they can refresh their memory with some extra research. Make sure they are a member of the American Intellectual Property Law Association or the International Trademark Association. Membership in either organization will also show a real interest in the area.
- Get a trademark attorney who respects you and your work. You need to be able to work with your intellectual property lawyer. You need to know that they are competent in their field but they need to understand that so are you. This is not just a matter of courtesy but intellectual property lawyers who respect their client’s expertise can use it to the benefit of their case whereas those who do not cannot.
- Ask about their feelings on dispute resolution alternatives. There may be a way to avoid going to court and your trademark attorney should be at least willing to investigate those options, if there are any. Mediation and arbitration may be options for your situation and that can save you and the other party a lot of time, money and hassle and wind up with a resolution you can all at least live with. Not every trademark attorney is well versed in this so make sure you ask if this is something they are amenable to and have experience in. It may make a big difference in your trademark case.
- Make sure the person is reputable. This should be a given but you would hate to think you are hiring a true trademark attorney and then find out they are really a patent attorney. You also just want the most ethical and honest person representing your case. You want someone who wants to resolve it quickly. One way to do this is to make sure you come up with a timeline and fee schedule right at the start. You do not want a lawyer who is just going to run up the clock to increase your bill.