Intellectual Property (IP) refers to inventions and other creative works in which a business may claim certain rights recognized under various state and federal laws. These rights may include patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade dress and trade secrets—highly-valued assets at risk in the competitive and social-media driven environment of today’s marketplace. Tharrington Smith attorneys understand the crucial role of intellectual property in both private and public companies and have experience both defending and prosecuting violations of the laws governing these valuable rights. We believe the core knowledge and varied experience gained from representing plaintiffs and defendants can contribute to more innovative and effective solutions in these complicated disputes.
The issues involved in intellectual property matters tend to be sophisticated and complex, requiring skilled analysis and familiarity with key concepts. Disputes may require emergency relief, such as restraining orders and other injunctive relief. Our intellectual property team has successfully represented clients before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, as well as in federal and state courts. Our attorneys have helped clients navigate a variety of intellectual property challenges, including the following:
- Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices disputes
- Trade Secret disputes
- Copyright matters
- Trademark matters
- Confidentiality and Nondisclosure disputes
- Trade Dress disputes
Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices disputes – The North Carolina Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act (UDTPA) was initially designed to protect consumers, but its protections have also been extended to businesses. While treble damages as well as attorney fees may be awarded against those found to have violated the Act, violations typically require more than a simple breach of contract. Assessing when and how the UDTPA may be applied in a particular context makes it essential for clients to be represented by experienced counsel in such disputes.
Trademark matters – A powerful trademark can encapsulate a company’s standing and reputation, which often take years to achieve. As defined by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, trademark infringement is the unauthorized use of a trademark or service mark on or in connection with goods and/or services in a manner that is likely to cause confusion, deception, or mistake about the source of the goods and/or services. Infringement may be present even if trademarks or service marks are not identical, if there is a likelihood that consumers may be confused as to the trademark owners. The trademark attorneys at Tharrington Smith help their clients to secure trademark registration of their valuable marks to help protect these treasured and integral aspects of their business. We stand ready to make claims to such rights on behalf of our clients, and to defend against claims brought against them. We work with clients to explain the legal complexities of trademark issues and how they can impact the company’s success.
Copyright matters – We understand that a company’s performance is often greatly enhanced by creative efforts that may be reflected in print media, digital media (such as photographs), mobile applications, videography, software applications and other physical manifestations of that creativity. This intellectual property is protected against infringement by the U. S. Copyright Act of 1976. Copyright infringement may occur deliberately or unwittingly, such as when material found on the internet is assumed to be in the public domain. Remedies may include injunctions to prohibit future copying, money damages to compensate the plaintiff and possibly punitive damages. Most trademark and copyright disputes are governed by federal law and are litigated in U.S. District Courts. Tharrington Smith attorneys will use their varied experience and success in the federal court system to advance their clients’ interests.
Trade Dress disputes – Trade dress refers to the visual appearance of a product or its packaging that signifies the source of the product to consumers. Trade dress is sometimes thought of as akin to a word trademark. Trade dress regulations protect what makes a product or service distinct, such as branding or packaging. As this area of the law continues to evolve, so have the volume and variety of claims. The Intellectual Property Litigation team at Tharrington Smith has both the technical knowledge and trial experience to help protect our clients’ valuable trade dress.