Protect your Company’s Bright Ideas

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:39 pm

In this multi-media era, companies are executing and promoting their corporate missions in person, in printed publications and electronically through audio-video, blogs, podcasts and Web sites.

Because their corporate tentacles are spreading in so many ways, it is more challenging, yet more important, than ever for companies to protect their intellectual properties and corporate images.

A case in point: Adaptive Micro Systems LLC received a patent in August on a development the Milwaukee company had been working on for five years.

The patent for a display device with a molded light guide, or an RGB pixel, will enable Adaptive Micro Systems to revolutionize light emitting diode (LED) technology in the commercial display industry, said Bill Latz, president of Adaptive Micro Systems.

“This pixel allows us to make a product no one else can make until they design their own pixel, and the patent gives us that protection,” Latz said.

Adaptive Micro Systems creates electronic signs using LED technology and distributes its products for billboards, highway signs, electronic message centers and games all over the world.

The display device was created by one of the company’s partners in Taiwan. Adaptive Micro Systems began developing the product about five years ago and filed for a patent on the technology two years ago, once the company was getting to the point where it was ready to apply it to specific products.

The surface mount RGB pixel is an LED hybrid circuit with LEDs that are red, green and blue, Latz said. With the technology, a user can achieve 16.7 million different colors and shades in the signage.

“The display just snaps,” Latz said. “It is a brighter, snappier display than ever before.”

The development helped Adaptive Micro Systems regain a market position in the gaming industry. Waukegan, Ill.-based WMS Gaming Inc., a slot machine manufacturer, contracted with Adaptive Micro Systems to replace all of its three-color LED displays with the RGB pixel LED display.

“This will revolutionize slot machines,” Latz said. “A slot machine game has a color theme to it, and (manufacturers) are restricted to just three colors. An LCD screen gives you a little television, but the gaming industry still wants something to look like a sign. (The RGB pixel) displaces the old style LED.”

If the company had not filed for a patent on the technology, which Latz believes will lead to significant growth for his business, a competitor could have seen the RGB pixel, reverse-engineered it to determine how it was made and tried to go head-to-head with Adaptive Micro Systems for market share.

Protecting intellectual property today is even more important than it was before the Internet came along, according to Craig Wilson, attorney for The Schroeder Group in Waukesha.

“Every company has to consider intellectual property as a core piece of the company’s value and certainly as a core asset,” Wilson said. “Many of our clients are closely-held companies for the most part who aren’t always dealing or thinking globally. But with copyrights, trade secrets and patents, we encourage them to take steps and think about what they are doing. Companies have a definite need to protect intellectual property for a competitive advantage locally and globally,” Wilson said.

For instance, companies that hire technology firms to develop custom software need to be clear about who owns the finished product, Wilson said.

“Every company comes into a situation where in their business transactions they are dealing with companies who have intellectual property, and it is always an issue,” Wilson said. “If you hire a company to build a software system for you, you need to think about who will own the rights of property once it is finished.”

The value of a business, when being bought or sold, can be directly related to how the company has protected its IP, Wilson said.

“From a competitive point of view, large and small businesses in the U.S. are seeing competition from businesses they never saw before,” said Thomas Miller, an attorney with Michael Best & Friedrich LLP in Milwaukee.

“From the IP perspective, we are seeing other markets become important in terms of filing patent applications, like China. As competition develops over there, we are seeing companies file for protection over there,” Miller said.

The ability to build and conduct business over the Internet enables almost any business to compete in a global marketplace, Miller said.

“Absent specific protection for innovation, competitors are going to copy (an invention) if it is important to the marketplace,” Miller said. “Every dollar spent on research and development will be lost if a company fails to protect its inspiration.”

Even companies that do not do much inventing or product development have a need to build, communicate and protect their brands, Wilson said.

“The availability of the Internet as a business and marketing tool has and will continue to affect small businesses unlike ever before. The ability to market and sell products or services online allows young, small, humble enterprises to introduce their brand to a vast market,” Wilson said. “While this is good for business, it does increase the need to clearly define and protect one’s trademarks. It also opens businesses up to the possibility of bumping up against many more competitors who may be employing similar marks."

Sign up for BizTimes Daily Alerts

Stay up-to-date on the people, companies and issues that impact business in Milwaukee and Southeast Wisconsin

No posts to display