Intellectual Property is commonly referred to as “creations of the mind,” covering everything from artworks, inventions, logos, trademarks, music and software. In the world of intellectual property, however, there are different tools used to protect each aspect of one’s creations or inventions. We’ll outline the four major tools used by intellectual property attorneys—trademarks, copyrights, patents and trade secrets– in this blog post.
Patents focus on protecting inventions that create something “novel’ or new that don’t already exist in the marketplace. Keep in mind that an invention or product may need multiple patents to cover all of the different components of the invention. The application process itself is very complex and should be handled by an experienced attorney for best results.
A copyright covers the expression of an idea—really everything from literature, photographs, graphic design, software, music, audio and video recordings. What’s unique about copyrights is that protection is granted to the artist or creator the moment a work is put in a fixed medium. You don’t need to apply with the government to secure these fundamental rights. You do, however, have to file for copyright protection with the U.S. Copyright Office if you seek to enforce your copyright. If it’s not registered, you will not be able to go after infringing parties in court. Also, by registering is with the U.S. Copyright Office you get numerous benefits that are invaluable should another infringe on your copyright.
The trademark(s) your business chooses are essential to establishing a company that customers will know and respect. You can trademark almost any aspect of your brand, including your name or slogan – Word Marks – images or logos – Figurative Marks – or a combination of the two.
The first thing to protect is usually your company name, but you still need to be careful as not every brand name will be protectable under IP law. For example, to be registered, a trademark cannot include descriptions of the products or services it offers. A strong trademark will generally be fanciful (made-up, like Pepsi®), arbitrary (a real word that bears no correlation to the product, like Apple®), or suggestive (For example, Greyhound® is a bus service dedicated to speed and reliability) and shouldn’t clash with any pre-existing brands.
Trade secrets are just that—secrets that provide your company with a benefit or competitive edge that are not known or readily accessible by competitors. Many people think of the formula for Coke or the secret ingredients for KFC Chicken when it comes to trade secrets. But, a trade secret can really be anything—like a special mathematical formula, database, pattern, program or device. You don’t need to file anything with the government to protect your trade secrets; you just have to make sure they stay a secret. That is generally accomplished by keeping the secret under lock and key (if it’s something physical) or by creating contracts and non-disclosure agreements with people who would have access to your trade secrets.
Whatever IP You Have, Legal Protection Is Key!
Every business or brand has some form of “IP” and it’s critical to protect your intellectual property through the legal means available to you. If you have questions or you’d like to discuss your needs in further detail, contact our law firm at (888) 666-0062 to schedule an appointment.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice or a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney.