Intellectual property laws are the driving force behind corporate profitability, and every business needs to develop an awareness and understanding of how these laws can be used. Despite the name, intellectual property laws are designed to protect both tangible and intangible creations from theft and damage, whether it is an idea for a new product, a piece of artwork, or a patented invention. Read on to learn more about how you can protect your intellectual property.
Intellectual Property Rights Will Protect Your Original Creations
Intellectual property is a general term used to describe creations of the mind, such as inventions, literary works, and designs. These rights are protections given to original ideas that can be expressed in a tangible form. They give you the exclusive right to use your creativity and stop others from copying it without your permission.
For example, if you create an original song or design something new like software code or a cell phone app, you own the copyright in that work unless someone else has already claimed it first. The same goes for inventions—if yours is unique enough to qualify for patent protection (which means no one else has come up with something similar), then only you can make copies or sell your invention without getting permission from anyone else who might have claimed ownership first.
Copyright: The Protection of Original, Creative Work
How to Copyright a Work
It’s easy just complete and submit the form. The U.S. Copyright Office has instructions on doing this online on their website. There are fees associated with copyright filing, which you can find here.
What Happens When a Work is Copyrighted?
Copyright protection begins when your original content is fixed in a tangible form (for example: writing down your idea on paper). However, registration may be required for specific remedies against infringers, such as statutory damages and attorney’s fees.
When Can You Copyright Something?
You can file for copyright any time before it enters the public domain.
Trademark: The Protection of a Brand or Brand Identity
Trademarks protect the brand identity of a business. A trademark’s purpose is to distinguish the goods and services of one company from those of another company. Trademark protection is available locally and internationally, with registration at one level extending to all other levels (provided no conflicting trademarks). This means that if you register your brand in your home country, it will extend protection internationally as well – so long as you don’t run into any competing trademarks along the way.
Trademarks can be renewed indefinitely, but they’ll need to be renewed every 5-10 years, depending on which country you register them.
Patent – The Protection of an Invention of a Product, Design, or Process
While patents are a necessary form of intellectual property protection, you may also consider applying for a trademark to protect your brand. Patents protect inventions and other products from being used by others without permission. They cover everything from mechanical processes to new software programs and genetically engineered plants.
A patent gives you the right to prevent other people from using, making, or selling what you have invented for up to 20 years in the U.S., depending on how quickly the application was filed after development began (or if it was filed before then).
Suppose someone else begins making or selling one of your patented products during this period. In that case, they can be sued by your company or yourself to stop them from continuing unless they pay royalties back towards yourself and your company as compensation for use being made outside their original agreement with whoever owns those rights at that time (usually due diligence will mean checking recent filings which may not show up until several months later).
Trade Secret – The Protection of Sensitive Business Information and Processes
The term “trade secret” is the catch-all for confidential business information and processes used to create products or services. A trade secret can encompass many elements, including research and development data; formulas and recipes; manufacturing processes; software code; customer lists, pricing strategies, marketing plans, and advertising campaigns.
While patent and copyright protection are geared toward protecting inventions, trademarks, service marks, and trade dress, they focus on protecting intellectual property that does not involve tangible property, such as the machine or product you might use your logo in your advertising material your website. This means you’re using it as an identifier or branding tool—something that identifies your company from others in the marketplace—and this use makes it eligible for trademark protection under federal law if appropriately done (more on this below).
A strong understanding of intellectual property laws can be a significant asset for any business, as long as it focuses on the relevant areas of laws. It’s also essential to develop a broad perspective, keeping an eye on how these laws can affect other factors—especially in an increasingly interconnected digital world. Here at Cobb Cole, we have one of the only 122 Florida Bar board-certified intellectual property attorneys on our team. If you are running into copyright issues, contact us today, and our experienced attorneys can help you protect your intellectual property before it’s too late. With over 90 plus years of assisting St. Augustine residents in receiving the justice they deserve, we’ll be here to help you too!