A few years ago, our firm defended a client against a claim of patent infringement.  As it turned out, our client had disclosed its confidential information to a potential business partner during a pre-collaboration exploratory meeting, which the potential business partner then used to obtain the patent they were asserting.  Luckily, our client had insisted on putting a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) in place before the meeting and had clearly marked the information as being confidential.  Because of these precautionary measures, not only were we able to invalidate the patent, but we also won a breach of contract counterclaim based on the unauthorized use of the confidential information.

If you are exploring the possibility of collaborating with another company, you are likely going to exchange confidential information with that company so you can evaluate what they have to offer and they can evaluate what you have to offer.  Although necessary, these types of exploratory meetings can be a trap for the unwary.  Below are a few measures that should be taken to protect your confidential information before, during, and after any such meetings.
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Here at Winstead, we are fortunate enough to have two lawyers that were selected for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America® 2018 in Trademark Law, Stan Moore and Cathryn Berryman.  Before answering the question What are Trademarks?, I thought it would be a good idea to get their insights on trademark best practices.

Stan Moore:  Most businesses have trademark issues, whether they know it or not.  With trademarks, ignorance is not bliss.  Businesses can lose their hard-earned goodwill based solely on inaction–either failing to protect their own trademarks or inadvertently using someone else’s trademarks.  A little effort upfront can save you years of heartache.

Cathryn Berryman:  When starting a new company or releasing a new product, why pick a name that is going to cause you problems down the road?  The time to pick a good name is at the outset, before any marketing dollars have been spent.  You would be surprised how many times clients fall in love with a name and fail to heed our advice when we recommend against using that name–even though they had not yet spent any money on advertising.  More often than not, it ends up costing the client a lot more money to protect the name, money that could have been saved if they would have picked a better trademark at the outset.

So, if this is something every business needs to address, what exactly are trademarks and what makes for good ones?  Put simply, trademarks are source identifiers.  They can be any combination of words, phrases, symbols, or designs, that identify the source of goods or services and distinguish those goods or services from others.  When choosing a name for a new business or a new product, the goal should be to select a strong trademark, i.e., one that is highly distinctive.  Not only are strong trademarks easier to register, they are also easier to enforce.
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The term moral rights in the United States typically refers to the right or ability of creators of certain works of visual art (e.g., paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures, and photographs) to control the eventual fate of such works.  In Europe and elsewhere, an artist’s moral rights are much broader and not limited to