In our previous post, we briefly discussed some of the differences between utility and design patents. As we noted, patent protection isn’t necessarily limited to a single type of patent; in some cases, it may be desirable to obtain both a utility and a design patent on an invention.

This is often what happens in the world of mobile device design, where patent disputes are very common. One of the companies at the center of many of these disputes is Apple. In recent years, Apple has been involved in patent disputes with a number of other manufacturers, including Nokia, Motorola, and Samsung. 

When a party believes its patent has been infringed, it is sometimes possible to resolve the matter outside court; in some cases it isn’t, at least initially. One of the common ways patent disputes are resolved is to enter into license agreements. This is how Apple and Nokia recently ended long-standing patent dispute involving mobile device software, display, user interface, video coding and other matters.

One important issue for businesses in competitive industries to consider is the value they will place on patent protection relative to trade secret protection. Though the two are not exclusive, it isn’t always desirable to seek both types of protection. When it is a matter of pursuing one or the other, certain considerations come into play. For one thing, patent protection may not be available for a business’ intellectual property, and it will only be possible to pursue trade secret protection. In other cases, patent protection may be available for an invention, but a business may decide that trade secret protection is sufficient, and even has certain advantages.   

Next time, we’ll say a bit more about some of the considerations that would go into deciding between trade secret and patent protection, and how an experienced attorney can help in these matters.