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Recently I was trying to figure out how to explain patents to my niece. I realized that when I finished with the Thomas-Edison-and-the-lightbulb bit, she might say, “That’s pretty simple. Is there anything more to it?” Well . . . Fortunately for me, my niece is 11 years old and usually smart enough not to ask leading questions that might inspire adults to drone on and on. But if she does, again fortunately for me, I’ve just interviewed a design patent expert and am prepped with a lot more tantalizing material about shoes and cell phones. (No, really, Caroline, sit down and listen.) In this issue of Legal Times’ IP, Robert Katz of Banner & Witcoff offers his insight into the innovative world of patents on product configurations and surface ornamentation ( “The Picture-Perfect Patent”). It’s a place where a picture is truly worth a thousand words — if you file the patent application quickly. The United States is, of course, not the only country that issues design patents. You can shield designs and many other forms of intellectual property in, say, China. Not that it’s always easy. But Catherine Sun, an IP attorney based in Shanghai, writes that, contrary to current myth, trying to defend your intellectual assets in China is far from impossible ( “You Can Protect IP in China”). You just have to learn the laws, learn the culture, hire experienced legal advisers, and expend some reasonable amounts of time and money. So, not that different from protecting intellectual property in the United States, I guess. But what if your individual efforts still come to naught? Jon Huenemann and James Altman have a suggestion: Talk to your friendly federal officials ( “A Word to Uncle Sam”). After years of bilateral and multilateral trade talks, the U.S. government has a number of ways to make its point with foreign governments. And Uncle Sam cares, deeply and statutorily, about intellectual property. — Elizabeth Engdahl Managing Editor, IP

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