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Intellectual Property

Financial institutions encounter intellectual property (IP) issues more and more frequently in the current environment. Many institutions have experienced name changes or the development of service marks and trademarks, but often need outside expertise to check those names, marks, and slogans to help prevent claims of infringement from other financial services companies. Similarly, going by another name (or use of a “DBA”) has varying requirements based on the location of the institution, the type of institution, and where it will be using the fictitious name.

Financial institutions also increasingly have trade secrets to protect, from proprietary asset liability management (ALM) systems to customer lists. Protecting those secrets is vital to preventing former executives from using proprietary systems at competing institutions, or preventing former employees or brokers from poaching investment clients.

Patent trolls and patent litigation also increasingly impact the financial services industry, despite judicial and legislative moves to prevent patent trolling. With numerous patents for processes that could be interpreted to encompass home banking, mobile banking, the internet, and ATMs, it is little wonder that credit unions, banks, and their vendors have become targets for frivolous suits. Preparing for patent and other IP litigation, even in the course of negotiating vendor agreements, is vital to minimize cost and uncertainty when conflicts do arise.

SW&M has represented financial institutions in a wide range of intellectual property issues, including trademark, copyright, trade secret, unfair competition, and Internet law. SW&M attorneys work closely with clients, counseling them as to how to identify and protect their proprietary information, avoid IP litigation and conflicts with competitors, and prevail (or exit with the lowest cost) when conflicts do arise.