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Considering a Patent? Think Designs!

(approx. 2 minutes reading time....)
Patents are powerful tools to protect intellectual property rights, specifically to stop people from making, using, and selling an invention.  When people think of patents, they usually think of utility patents, which can protect the structure, function, and manufacture of inventions, such as machines and devices.  Utility patents can also cover processes, such as how something operates or is made.  Other types of patents include plant patents (e.g., covering characteristics of a plant), chemical patents (e.g., covering use of chemicals in products), and biotech patents (e.g., covering biological products, such as gene sequences, that have been isolated from their natural environment(s)).  

Another important and increasingly popular type of patent is the design patent, which covers the ornamental appearance of something that is made – that is, how an article of manufacture looks.  Design patents have been granted for a plethora of products.   As you look around a room, virtually every article you see may be covered by a design patent.  That desk lamp, telephone, chair, stapler, coffee cup, clock, on and on, all may have a novel configuration/shape and/or surface ornamentation, which supports that article being covered by a design patent.  Just as with utility patents, the design patent is useful to stop someone from making, using, and selling the patented article. 

Unlike the other kinds of patents, design patents have very few words, and are largely made up of drawings that show different views of the article to define the invention.  Many people may not appreciate that a carefully crafted design patent can afford significant protection for an article.  Take, for example, a new sneaker model that is about to be launched.  One may consider the sneaker itself, that is, the entire shoe, to be the subject of the design patent.  However, virtually any ornamental aspect of the sneaker, such as the tread design (or a portion of the tread), the appearance of the heel, the shape of the upper portion of the sneaker, the shape of the toe box, fabric surface ornamentation, or virtually any other sneaker part or portion thereof can be protected by design patents.  Thus, it can be appreciated that a single sneaker can be covered by dozens or more design patents. 

Design patents are not limited to just physical articles.  Design patents can cover the virtual world as well, so as to protect graphical user interfaces and various elements thereof.  New types of graphical icons, layouts, and screen controls, for example, can be protected by design patents.  Furthermore, design patent protection can be obtained for graphical sequences.  For example, an icon that changes in appearance in response to a mouse selection or hover, pinch and zoom, swiping, or virtually any other user-based or automatic action, may be afforded design patent protection. Programmers, software developers, and graphic designers who want to protect their valuable intellectual property can benefit from the protection that design patents afford. 
Thus, it should be appreciated that design patents can be significant assets for a person or company, including in combination with other forms of intellectual property protection, such as utility patents, trademarks, copyrights, and/or trade secrets.

Joel Felber is a partner and patent attorney at Leason Ellis, an intellectual property law firm in White Plains, NY.  He can be reached at and 914-821-3080. This article is not meant to provide legal advice or opinions.  We recommend contacting a registered patent attorney for answers to your patent-related questions.

Three ways technology is providing value in real estate

(approx. 2 minutes reading time....)

As digital solutions from the Internet of Things (IoT) to machine learning transform how we live and work, businesses across the US economy are looking to technological innovation to stay ahead of the competition.

The real estate industry has largely been slow to adopt technology, but the industry is getting pushed in that direction. And when we talk about technology within real estate, there are largely three different key use cases.

1. Customer Care

The multi-family sector is really the driving force behind incorporating technology into how we work with our customers. You see Amazon partnering with several homebuilders and multifamily providers to make smart units. These are buildings equipped technological processes that allow tenants an easier, cheaper and more efficient way of living through smart security, energy savings, system monitoring and other IoT integration. Such smart systems are becoming expected, not a luxury. This market is set to grow and we’ll see more multi-family projects looking at creating smart homes and utilizing that kind of technology integration.

2. Asset Management

This is where technology can provide cost saving and analysis to asset owners and managers. The cost saving side is seen through monitoring equipment, or the Internet of Things (IoT), where you have internet-enabled sensors tracking water, electricity, air conditioning and other systems. These systems can often avoid expensive repairs with the help of IoT monitoring. That means instead of relying on maintenance staff to flag problems, you could use Alexa. IoT would also be able to provide analysis on how tenants are using the property, giving insight into tenant requirements and potential vacancy risks.

3. Investor Relations

As the investor generation transitions from boomers to millennials, investor reporting will have to evolve. We're talking about a generation that expects to get nearly any piece of information or purchase any good with a few taps on their phone. They're not going to wait for a quarterly email or PDF on how their investments are doing – they will expect mobile, technologically enhanced investor reporting, or you won’t be having a meeting.

Ultimately, technology will become ever more embedded into real estate. We’re already seeing increased activity in the PropTech market - direct investments in companies focused on real estate-related technologies. Recently we spoke to an institutional real estate fund that has historically just invested in traditional office and multi-family assets, now it is launching its first PropTech fund.

As this trend continues, if you’re not investing in PropTech - either internally or as its own asset class - in 5-10 years’ time you may start to struggle to attract capital.

- by Stu Taub and Troy Merkel
(reprinted with permission from

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The judge had not yet put in an appearance in the San Diego traffic court. When the bailiff entered the courtroom, he sensed the nervousness of the traffic offenders awaiting their ordeal.

“Good morning, ladies and gentlemen,” he said. “Welcome to ‘What’s My Fine!’”

As a judge, I was sentencing criminal defendants when I saw a vaguely familiar face. I reviewed his record and found that the man was a career criminal, except for a five-year period in which there were no convictions.

“Milton,” I asked, puzzled, “how is it you were able to stay out of trouble for those five years?”

“I was in prison,” he answered. “You should know that—you were the one who sent me there.”

“That’s not possible,” I said. “I wasn’t even a judge then.”

“No, you weren’t the judge,” the defendant countered, “You were my lawyer.”

I observed defendant driving without headlights on. Defendant’s vehicle was swaying from westbound lane to eastbound. #1. As defendant’s vehicle passed, I observed defendant with a large dog helping defendant drive (dog had front paws on steering wheel, possibly trying to save his own life). Upon stopping defendant’s vehicle, defendant began yelling, “&#*^% Skippy (the dog)! You really got me $#*&^% up this time.” Skippy had no statement.

What's the difference between a viola and a lawsuit?
Everyone is relieved when the case is closed. 

A. Well, I mean they’re collies. They are trained – I mean the dogs are trained. I don’t watch them every minute.
Q. Do you let them roam free where you live?
A. Yes, I do now. We live in Sunol (CA). I don’t know if you know the area, but our mayor is a dog, and our newly elected official is a dog.
Q. Is he on a leash?
A. He does not wear a leash, no.

The defendant reports his future goals are to graduate from high school and go to college. He states his primary goal was to be a police officer, but he will have to settle for being an attorney due to the felony record resulting from this present matter.

The Court: “If that be your verdict, so say you all.”
Two Jurors: “You all.”

The manager of a large office noticed a new man one day and told him to come into his office.

"What is your name?" the manager asked.

"John," the new guy replied.

The manager scowled, "Look, I don't know what kind of a namby-pamby place you worked at before, but I don't call anyone by their first names. It breeds familiarity and that leads to a breakdown in authority. I refer to my employees by their last names only - Smith, Jones, Baker - that's all. I am to be referred to only as Mr. Robertson. I'm the boss around here, so don't you forget it.

Now that we've got that straight, what is your last name?"

The new guy sighed and said, "Darling. My name is John Darling."

"Okay, John, the next thing I want to tell you is..."        

Q. Why did the Roman Coliseum close?

A. The lions had eaten up all the prophets.

Once upon a time, there was a young man who dreamed of becoming a great writer. He was asked to define ‘great,’  and he said, "I want to write something people will react to on a raw, emotional level, something that will make them scream, cry, and howl in pain and anger! I want the entire world to see my words." He now works for Microsoft writing error messages.

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