TZL 1338 (web)


Intellectual property (Part 2)

C ivil and structural engineers can easily lose sight of the basic premise that intellectual property, such as trademark and copyright, ultimately boils down to legal property. Like any other form of property, the law operates to determine the legal owner of trademarks and copyrights. In certain situations, the law may operate to deny civil and structural engineers the ownership of what should have been their IP. Innovators should consider following these best practices to ensure that what they believe to be their trademarks and copyrights actually are their legal property.

Stephen Keefe

A few IP ownership best practices and pitfalls follow, which civil and structural engineers can consider keeping in mind in managing their enterprises. This second article in this series covers ownership issues in trademark and copyright. The previous article in this series covered ownership issues in patent and trade secret, which provide the other main legal pillars of IP protection. TRADEMARK OWNERSHIP. Trademark provides critical protection to stop others from misusing the brands and goodwill that innovators build up over years and decades of hard work promoting their goods and services. Although civil and structural engineers create common law rights merely by using their marks in commerce, these property rights suffer from significant geographic

restrictions and place the burden of proof on the mark user. That is, common law trademark rights do not confer an initially strong presumption of ownership on would-be plaintiffs hoping to enforce those rights. In addition to state common law trademark rights, U.S. federal law provides a strong body of trademark law that civil and structural engineers can leverage to protect their brands and goodwill in the marketplace. Innovators can apply for federal trademark protection through the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Similar to patent applications, the USPTO examines trademark applications to ensure applicants’ desired marks meet legal requirements for

See STEPHEN KEEFE, page 12

THE ZWEIG LETTER March 30, 2020, ISSUE 1338

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