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VOL. 126 | NO. 115 | Tuesday, June 14, 2011




Memphis Cos. Protect Inventions With Patents

Glen G. Reid

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Reid

People always create new ideas and invent new things. Whether it’s computer software or a plumbing component, a new musical score or a jet engine, people also want to protect their creations – their intellectual property – from others who might copy or steal their ideas and inventions for profit.

Thus, we have patents. The holder of a patent has the exclusive legal right to that patented invention. As a result, the patent holder can prevent others from making, using, selling, offering for sale or even importing the patented invention for the patent’s duration, which, for most patents, is 20 years from the date of issuance.

Memphis has a rich history of creativity, determination and entrepreneurship that has resulted in the issuance of countless patents to many Memphis-based companies and residents over the years. FedEx, for example, perhaps Memphis’ most recognized homegrown business, owns various patents that protect the company’s diverse operations, including several patents for an apparatus that reads and decodes information and tracks package data. Those various patents, together with other patented intellectual property belonging to FedEx, contribute to this company’s success in operating its diverse businesses and staying ahead of the competition.

Another Memphis-based company with a long history of creativity and invention is Hunter Fan Co., which has been manufacturing ceiling fans and related products since 1886. The years of experience have resulted in Hunter Fan obtaining numerous patents to protect its intellectual property rights, including patents for a high-efficiency ceiling fan, ceiling-fan motors, a ceiling-fan light, a ceiling-fan hanging system and a ceiling-fan remote. With this type of innovation and protection, it is not a surprise that Hunter Fan is the world’s largest and oldest manufacturer of ceiling fans.

Another good example of a Memphis-based company that has used patents to protect its business is Buckman Laboratories International Inc., a leading manufacturer of specialty chemicals that concentrates in technologies primarily related to paper, water, leather and performance. Buckman Labs owns various specialized patents including, for example, a patent covering the use of cerium salts to inhibit manganese deposition in water systems and a patent related to a method to control organic contaminants in fibers.

Although certainly indicative of the talent and industry located within Memphis, the many patents owned by FedEx, Hunter Fan, and Buckman Labs do not scratch the surface of the achievements and developments that have been made and continue to be made by local individuals and companies. To find a comprehensive database of all patent filings originating in Memphis, go to www.uspto.gov/patents/process/search/index.jsp.

It’s important to know, however, that the issuance of a patent comes with a cost. The person or entity seeking the patent must disclose the details of the invention to the public when filing a patent application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Glen G. Reid is the partner in charge of the Memphis office of Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs LLP, and is a member of the law firm’s Intellectual Property Service Team. He frequently represents business entities as both plaintiff and defendant in patent infringement lawsuits.

RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 0 133 1,342
MORTGAGES 0 131 1,047
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 0 19 170
BUILDING PERMITS 28 305 3,056
BANKRUPTCIES 25 98 716
BUSINESS LICENSES 4 26 302
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 0 0 0
MARRIAGE LICENSES 0 0 0