Dawn at Vesta

NASA’s Dawn mission that’s been orbiting Vesta since mid-July revealed the asteroid’s Southern Hemisphere boasts one of the largest mountains in the solar system. Other results show that Vesta’s surface has striking diversity in its composition. The surface appears to be much rougher than most asteroids in the main asteroid belt. Preliminary results from crater age dates indicate that areas in the Southern Hemisphere are as young as 1 to 2 billion years old which are much younger than areas in the north.

In mid-July, Dawn entered orbit around Vesta and began imaging what is possibly the oldest planetary surface in the solar system. The surface of Vesta shows the ravages of time. Many more craters are seen in the Northern Hemisphere than the Southern because an enormous impact altered the earlier cratering record in the south. Since July, the Dawn spacecraft has been moving ever closer to Vesta, moving into a polar orbit to look down on every square kilometer of the planetary surface. In mid-August, it entered Survey Orbit at 1,700-mile (2,700 kilometers) altitude and mapped the entire sunlit surface with its framing camera and Visible and IR mapping spectrometer.

A new coordinate system has been defined for Vesta because the old coordinate system, based on low-resolution telescopic data, was wrong by almost 10°. Even with data from the Hubble Space Telescope, it had been difficult to determine Vesta’s rotation axis.

Because of Dawn’s dual mission, friends of mine at the Center for Solar System Science (CS3) have been tasked with providing light curve data for Dawn’s next visit Ceres.  With this information, Dawn’s mission specialists will have an easier time getting into orbit around the asteroid.  This new information developed by citizen scientists in coordination with NASA is just one way everyday astronomers can help further scientific knowledge.


– Ex astris, scientia –


Happy Uranus Day

Discovery on March 13, 1781 by Sir William Herschel, Uranus was the first planet discovered with a telescope.  Although it is visible to the naked eye it was never recognized as a planet by ancient observers because of its dimness and slow orbit.  Named after the ancient Greek deity of the sky Ouranos, the father of Cronus (Saturn) and grandfather of Zeus (Jupiter).  Uranus is the seventh planet from the Sun and is the third-largest planet in the Solar System.

Most of the planets spin on an axis nearly perpendicular to the plane of the ecliptic but Uranus’ axis is almost parallel to the ecliptic.  At the time of Voyager 2’s passage, Uranus’ south pole was pointed almost directly at the Sun. This results in the odd fact that Uranus’ polar regions receive more energy input from the Sun than do its equatorial regions. Uranus is nevertheless hotter at its equator than at its poles. The mechanism underlying this is unknown.

– Ex astris, scientia –

Why Is a Patent Search So Important?

A patent search is often the first step in pursuing a patent, and its importance should not be overlooked. In order to patent an invention, it must be truly novel. The best way evaluate the originality of your idea is to conduct a thorough patent search. In addition to determining if someone else already has a patent for your idea, a patent search also aids the patent process is several other ways. For example:

• The results of a patent search can help you refine your design.

• The results of a patent search can help ensure that your product does not infringe on other products.

• The results of a patent search are integral to completing the patent application process.

• The results of a patent search can provide an early indication of the likelihood of your patent being granted.

Thanks to technology, it is now possible to conduct a basic patent search on the Internet. You can search the texts or claims of patents for free on the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) website. The USPTO’s system allows you to:

• Search U.S. patents dating back to 1976

• Search U.S. patent applications dating back to March 2001,

• Perform bibliographic searches (to find out the name, title of invention, or patent number) of patents dating back to 1790.

Of course, this post provides only a broad overview of patent searches. Before embarking on the patent process, I recommend that you consult with an experienced patent attorney.

If you have any intellectual property questions regarding: patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, IP litigation, international patent and trademark prosecution, licensing, alternative dispute resolution, and green technology, please contact me for a free consultation

Selecting the Proper Format for a Trademark

If you looked into filing a trademark application, you know that there are some decisions to make. One of the most important choices is the depiction of your mark.

Every application must include a clear representation of the mark you want to register. This representation is used by the Trademark Office to file the mark in the USPTO search records. In addition, it is also used to print the mark in the Official Gazette and on the registration certificate.

Two possible mark formats are used: (1) standard character format; or (2) stylized or design format.

Standard Character Format

The standard character format should be used to register words, letters, numbers, or any combination thereof, without claim to any particular font style, size, or color, and absent any design element.

In general, you should submit a standard character drawing if:

  • All letters and words in the mark are depicted in Latin characters;
  • All numerals in the mark are depicted in Roman or Arabic numerals;
  • The mark includes only common punctuation or diacritical marks; and
  • The mark does not include a design element.

Registration of a mark in the standard character format will provide broad rights, namely use in any manner of presentation. For instance, you may depict the mark in any font style; may use bold or italicized letters; and may use both uppercase and lowercase letters, all uppercase letters, or all lowercase letters.

Stylized Format

The stylized or design format, on the other hand, is appropriate if you wish to register a mark with a design element and/or words and/or letters having a particular stylized appearance that you wish to protect.

In most cases, companies select the stylized format because they want the mark to include color or a design/logo.

Other Considerations

Finally, it is important to note that the two types of mark formats cannot be mixed in one mark. Therefore, it is important to ensure that you do not submit a representation of a mark that attempts to combine a standard character format and a stylized or design format.

In addition, once filed, you cannot make a material change to your mark.

How I Can Help

Of course, this post provides only a brief overview of the Trademark process.  Before undertaking a trademark registration, you should consult with an experienced intellectual property attorney.

If you need more advice or information, please feel free to contact me.

Is Facebook, Twitter and Other Social Media Putting Your Company at Risk?

With the explosion of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, it is likely that many of your employees use social media for both personal and business interactions. While these tools can be a great way to spread the word about your company’s products or services, they can also compromise proprietary information, including trade secrets.

Trade secrets are a valuable business asset, but only if they remain secret.  So, it is critical for companies to have policies and procedures in place to prevent employees from revealing confidential information via social media.

Below are a few tips for safeguarding your trade secrets:

  • Create policies for employees that clearly detail the company’s expectations regarding the use of social media.
  • Hold regular meetings with all employees to review you social media, trade secret and other intellectual property policies.
  • Include social media provisions in employment-related contracts such as non-disclosure and non-compete agreements.
  • Closely monitor the use of social networking media even for business purposes to reduce the risk of leaking confidential information, even inadvertently.
  • Thoroughly investigate any social media provider before using it to market your business. For instance, it is important to understand the provider’s policies regarding the ownership of information that is posted on its site as well as what controls are in place to protect customer data from hacking and other security threats.
  • Finally, stay on your toes—social media continues to evolve and will likely pose more IP challenges in the future.

Of course, these are only a few general tips. To ensure that your company’s trade secrets are thoroughly protected, it is a good idea to consult with an experienced intellectual property attorney.

If I can help you review your policies or assist you in any way, please contact me.

Can You Copyright a Recipe?

You may be wondering if grandma’s famous apple pie recipe can be protected.  This question gets asked a lot.  So, here’s the scoop when it comes to recipes and copyrights.

Under U.S. copyright law, a mere listing of ingredients is not protected. As noted in the seminal copyright case addressing recipes, Publications Intl. v. Meredith, 88 F.3d 473 (7th Cir. 1996):

“The identification of ingredients necessary for the preparation of each dish is a statement of facts. There is no expressive element in each listing; in other words, the author who wrote down the ingredients for ‘Curried Turkey and Peanut Salad’ was not giving literary expression to his individual creative labors. Instead, he was writing down an idea, namely, the ingredients necessary to the preparation of a particular dish.”

However, this does not mean that copyright protection is unavailable in other circumstances. Where a recipe or formula is accompanied by substantial literary expression in the form of an explanation or directions, or when there is a collection of recipes as in a cookbook, there may be a basis for copyright protection.

However, before running off to copyright that apple pie recipe, its important to note that if you have secret ingredients to a recipe that you do not wish to be revealed, you should not submit your recipe for registration, because applications and deposit copies are public records.

Source: Copyright.gov

If you need more information or I can help you in any way, please contact me.

Is My Invention Patentable?

A patent is a valuable property right because it excludes others from “making, using, offering for sale, or selling your invention throughout the United States or importing the invention into the United States” for a certain period of time. However, before embarking on the patent process, the first step is determine if your invention can indeed be patented.

What Can Be Patented

Utility patents are provided for the following, so long as they are new, nonobvious, and useful:

  • Processes
  • Machines
  • Articles of manufacture (i.e. chairs, shovels, gloves, shoes, envelopes, and mouse-pads)
  • Compositions of matter (defined as the “an instrument formed by the intermixture of two or more ingredients, and possessing properties which belong to none of these ingredients in their separate state”)
  • Improvements of any of the above

In addition to utility patents, patent protection is available for (1) ornamental design of an article of manufacture or (2) asexually reproduced plant varieties by design and plant patents.

What Cannot Be Patented

The following are not afforded patent protection:

  • Laws of nature
  • Physical phenomena
  • Abstract ideas
  • Literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works (these can be copyrighted)
  • Inventions that are not useful (the USPTO cites perpetual motion machines as an example)
  • Inventions that are offensive to public morality

Source: USPTO

How I Can Help

Of course, this is only a broad overview of the patent process. If you are seeking to patent an invention, you should consult with an experienced intellectual property attorney.  If I can help you and any way please contact me.

USPTO Issues Official Warning Regarding Fraudulent Solicitations

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has posted an official warning regarding fraudulent solicitations on its Trademark Home page. In my post last week I informed you that patent and trademark registrants and applicants should be on the lookout for non-USPTO solicitations that resemble official USPTO communications.

After a number of my clients had received these fake notices, my firm directly contacted the Deputy Commissioner of Patents. The USPTO responded to these concerns, and those of others in the intellectual property community, by officially addressing these scams.

The USPTO warning echoes the issues raised last week, noting that private companies not associated with the USPTO are using trademark application and registration information from the USPTO’s databases to mail or e-mail trademark-related solicitations, which may include offers: (1) for legal services; (2) for trademark monitoring services; (3) to record trademarks with U.S. Customs and Border Protection; and (4) to “register” trademarks in the company’s own private registry.

Given the growing incidence of these scams, the USPTO encourages applicants and registrants to read trademark-related communications carefully before making a decision about whether to respond.  In addition, it points out that all official correspondence will be from the “United States Patent and Trademark Office” in Alexandria, VA, and if by e-mail, specifically from the domain “@uspto.gov.”

How Can I Help?

While some of the correspondence you receive regarding your intellectual property may be legitimate, please do not hesitate to contact me or consult with a qualified attorney before enrolling in these services or sending any money.

If you need any help or assistance with you intellectual property needs, please contact me.