Common Questions

Welcome to the “Common Questions” column on the Privacy and IP Law Blog.

Here, you can find all of the articles that have been posted since 2009 for general reference about a particular area of IP or computer law.  These posts generally do not “expire” and can be used for reference even well after the publication date.  If you have particular questions, please feel free to contact us using the “Contact Us” page above.

Please note — these posts do not constitute specific legal advice, and are offered merely as an analysis of some of the issues raised by particular events or statutory developments. If you have particular concerns that you wish to have addressed, please contact a lawyer directly so that your specific circumstances can be evaluated.


What Kind of IP Protection Should I Pursue? (Nov. 23, 2021): This post defines basic terms under U.S. law to help foster conversations regarding obtaining the right protections for your IP (patents, trademarks and copyrights), with a list of helpful resources from elsewhere on this blog as well as U.S. government resources from the USPTO and the U.S. Copyright Office.


What’s Involved in Registering a US Trademark? (Nov. 16, 2022): What can you expect from the registration process if you’ve decided to register your U.S. trademark?  Not every application is the same, so there will be variations in exactly what happens in the prosecution of your application, but this post explores some common features, and can perhaps serve as a “Trademark 101 Primer” to describe the basic process.

TTAB Refused Registration for Commonplace Phrase that Fails to Function as a Trademark (April 19, 2022):  Catchy phrases in vogue at any given time are not necessarily the best choice for unique trademarks that can develop brand significance.  Instead, they are merely informational, descriptive or commonplace and customers will not associate those terms with any particular source of specific goods or services.  It is said that these terms/phrases “fail to function” as trademarks, and should be avoided when developing a new brand strategy.

How Not to Genericize Brands: ‘ZOOM’ Calls During COVID (Sept. 1, 2020):  This post explores the potential downside to having brands become common household terms – allowing those marks to lapse into generic terms.  Once a term is considered generic, no one can claim exclusive rights in that term.  This post also examines some famous historic trademarks that became generic over time – and makes recommendations for the proper use of trademarks to avoid missteps in maintaining valuable trademark rights.

How to Prove Use in Commerce (Specimens) (May 29, 2018).  This post explains what specimens (i.e., examples of current use of marks in commerce) can be submitted in support of applications for registration of trademarks (in connection with goods) and service marks (in connection with services) with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO).

How to Establish U.S. Trademark Rights (May 15, 2018).  Clients frequently ask for guidance about how to prove use in commerce to support their applications to the USPTO for registration of their trademarks and service marks. This post addresses proving use in commerce, generally, including why it is necessary to prove such use and how much use would be sufficient.

What’s the Difference Between a Trademark and a Service Mark? (Nov. 17, 2016).  This post explores the differences between demonstrating use of a trademark versus use of a service mark in the application process.  Specifically, different specimens (i.e., examples) showing how the mark is used in commerce are required for each type of application. These differences are set forth in the USPTO’s guidance and described briefly here.

Benefits of Trademark Searching (Apr. 13, 2015).  Trademark searching is not required before filing an application with the USPTO, but it is highly recommended. This article explores some reasons why.

So You’re Starting a New Business, How Do You Protect your Brand?  (Jan. 23, 2012).  This post explains the basics of trademark law for the entrepreneur, including how to choose a name and how to enforce your mark if you detect that someone is misusing it.

When Should I Enforce My Trademark Rights? (Nov. 1, 2011).  This post focuses on the timing of enforcement once a brand owner learns of potential infringement.  Specifically, this post focuses on the possible lapse in ability to enforce, due to the legal doctrines of acquiescence, laches and/or waiver.


Are There Deadlines to File Copyright Suits?  (Mar. 14, 2019)  This post addresses the timing of filing copyright infringement lawsuits – and specifically when the three-year statute of limitations will start to accrue.

Copyright Registration Certificate Must be “In Hand” Before Filing Infringement Suit (Mar. 10, 2019).  This post discusses the new rule (set by the U.S. Supreme Court) that copyright owners may not file suit for copyright infringement until they have received the Certificate of Registration back from the U.S. Copyright Office covering the work at issue.  In other words, it is not sufficient simply to have applied for registration – you must now apply and the Copyright Office has to reach a decision about your application before you can file suit.

Can I Copyright My Formula? (Nov. 28, 2016). This post considers whether copyright law can protect formulae/recipes from being copied by others and whether trade secret law may be a viable alternative to keep others from using a secret formula.

Can I Copyright My ‘Knight in Shining Armor’ Story? (Mar. 13, 2013).  This post addresses why authors cannot claim exclusive rights in story elements that provide building blocks to the development of other unique and original, non-infringing stories.

Can I Copyright My Idea? (Oct. 24, 2011).  This post identifies the key components in a copyrightable work, and distinguishes it from un-protectable ideas.  (Note that some ideas may be protected by patent law under the right circumstances, but this post focuses on the copyright issues only.)


Mobile Device Security Policies for Employers – Small and Large (Feb. 10, 2015).  You may have BYOD policies in place governing employee-owned devices that are also used for business purposes, but do you have policies in place to handle Company-issued devices?  Data losses can occur through these devices, too, and they should not be overlooked.

Is Your Company Subject to Laws Regulating Safe Destruction of Documents? (Sept. 2, 2014).  This post highlights state data destruction laws, most recently enacted in Delaware.


You will find that many of these posts includes links for further research, making it easy to learn more about a particular topic if you are interested.

Copyright (c) 2022.  Christina D. Frangiosa, All Rights Reserved.