Physical science is the study of the non-living world around us. Physical science draws from physics, astronomy, chemistry, and the earth sciences. Advances in semiconductors, telecommunications, clean energy, batteries, aerospace and aeronautics, etc. all result from advances in the physical sciences. RPL’s attorneys have technical backgrounds and experiences that position us to help you protect your physical science inventions and innovations as you leverage your technology to build products, services, and businesses.
Physical science innovation can results in intellectual property across any and all of the four IP regimes: patents for securing the exclusive rights to your inventions; trade secrets for protecting the confidential know-how underlying your processes and techniques that can’t be reverse engineered from the customer facing products; copyrights for your written protocols, as well as the creative manner in which you present your innovation to the world through your website, videos, and other marketing materials; and trademarks protecting the branding (e.g., the names, logos, and taglines) that ties each of the previous assets into a valuable business.
In physical science innovation, it can be important to assess the patent landscape early in the R&D process so as to more strategically focus your efforts in innovation and product development. Patent searching can be a valuable tool at this stage; a patentability search or patent landscape search can be used to evaluate whether there is white space to innovate a protectable invention in the space; a freedom to operate search can help identify potential infringement issues and help guide the design process to avoid patent infringement.
Once a promising course is set, the R&D process can lead to the invention of patentable innovations. Preparing and filing patent applications then helps to claim ownership to those innovations. When the patents issue, they provide the owner the ability to prevent others from making, using, or selling the patented invention by granting the exclusive rights to the invention to the patent owner. This can be especially important in technologies for which the path to market is long and expensive, as can be the case with cutting edge physical science innovations. The innovator has a tough path to market and, without patent protection securing the rights when the innovation finally starts to pay off, there may not be adequate incentive to bring the innovation to market at all. If a copycat can quickly ride your coattails after you prove there is a valuable market, you are putting yourself at a competitive disadvantage without patent protection.
When used correctly, the patents provide exclusive rights in the innovation that help to provide a competitive advantage in the marketplace. As discussed more below, that competitive advantage is used to help build the value in the trademarks that protect the business.
For inventions that are based on, or that incorporate subject matter that is difficult to reverse engineer, trade secret protection is an alternative, and sometimes preferred, mechanism for IP protection. Like patents above, the protection offered by trade secret protection can provide exclusive rights in the innovation that help to provide a competitive advantage and build the value in the trademarks.
There is no registration process for trade secrets, you simply need to maintain the confidentiality of the secret. Using non-disclosure agreements and other confidentiality measures can be helpful in demonstrating the efforts you’ve taken to maintain the confidentiality of a trade secret, but the real key is that trade secret protection is only effective for inventions that competitors won’t be able to figure out based on the public facing aspects of your product and business. And that’s your competitive advantage; if they can’t figure it out, they can’t copy it.
In the physical science space, trade secrets are most often as important as the patents. Particularly in instances in which your innovation is based on software that may not be patentable, but is difficult to reverse engineer, trade secret protection may be the best protection for some physical science innovations.
Copyrights protect original works of authorship fixed in tangible media. In businesses innovating in the physical science industry, copyrights are most often used to protect the licensable protocols you have developed for implementing your technology and processes. Copyrights are also important in protecting your original works of authorship, including your videos, websites, marketing copy, etc.
Although the registration process is not nearly as complex as either the patent or trademark registration processes, it can be helpful to work with an experienced IP attorney to protect your copyrightable materials.
Branding is important anytime a business is selling differentiated goods and services. In the physical science space, the company’s name is often its most important IP asset, as the name is how the brand will be recognized and the asset that will hold the value of the trust and admiration earned from the customers and the public. But trademarks are implicated in each name, logo, and tagline you bring to market. With each of those marks, it is important to avoid infringing others’ trademark rights through trademark searches and opinions and developing rights in distinctive marks yourself by registering trademarks.
In the long run, the business’s trademarks are often their most valuable IP assets. However, trademarks take time and effort to develop recognition and goodwill in the marketplace. In order to have the space in the marketplace to build that goodwill, the patents and trade secrets need to hold competitors from copying your unique offerings and enable you to build your brand. This is one of many reasons it is important to strategically build a coordinated and thoughtful trademark strategy from the outset of the business or product launch.
RPL’s attorneys have a strong background in the physical sciences. Our degrees in civil engineering, environmental engineering, chemistry, and molecular and cellular biology give us a strong background in the physics, chemistry, mechanics and dynamics, and other technical disciplines that provide the foundation for understanding the physical science space. We have written physical science patents in the fields of audio/video production and engineering, aviation, chemistry, food science, nautical and marine engineering, power generation and storage, precision instruments, and more.
Physical science companies are improving the way we interact with each other, and with the planet, and we are excited to work with you in this field to help you grow your business.