Suppose you are considering starting your own business or have already done so. In either case, you need to understand the different types of intellectual property, even if you think you do not need to do so because your business does not own any valuable intellectual property. Why? Simple – because you’re mistaken. No matter how small you think your business is, its intellectual property is valuable, and you need to take steps to protect it.
The Different Types of Intellectual Property
The term intellectual property covers a wide range of assets, including logos, business names, software, works of art, websites, drug formulas, and many more. However, most of the IP used is for branding and/or advertising when it comes to businesses.
To protect your intellectual property, the first thing you need to do is make sure you understand the differences between the different types of intellectual property. In the US, the most common types of intellectual property are trademarks, copyrights, and patents, each of which protects a specific type of asset.
What are Trademarks?
A trademark is a logo, name, slogan, or symbol that identifies a product or service and/or the business that provides it. An example of a trademark is the Nike swoosh as well as the word “Nike.” A trademark can be virtually anything that identifies a product, service, or company and allows consumers to know what it identifies instantly.
When you run a business, even if you do not have products or services with special or unique names, the name of your company itself and its logo are trademarks. Therefore, you should protect them by registering them with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Why? To prevent other businesses from using your name and logo to sell products that are inferior to yours – which can damage your brand’s reputation – and getting away with it.
What are Copyrights?
Copyright law gives authors of creative works such as writings, photographs, designs, software, paintings, and music, the ability to protect their work from unauthorized use in commerce by third parties.
Works have to be in a tangible form to receive copyright protection. In other words, copyright law does not protect ideas; it protects creations of the mind that can be touched, seen, heard, or otherwise experienced by others.
Copyright protection does not last forever. Instead, it usually ends 70 years after the author’s death, which gives authors of creative works plenty of time to profit from their work and even allows their heirs to do so for several decades.
Although you can file for legal copyright protection, technically, the author of a creative work receives copyright protection immediately upon creating the copyrightable work, unlike patents or trademarks.
What are Patents?
Essentially, patents cover unique inventions. When you file a patent application, you give up the secret of how your unique invention works in exchange for legal protection against unauthorized use of your invention in commerce. In other words, when you obtain a patent, the law allows you to prohibit others from using or selling your invention without your authorization for a period of anywhere from 15 to 20 years.
Your Intellectual Property is Valuable – I Can Help You Protect It!
Now that you have a better understanding of the different types of intellectual property, you are probably wondering how you can protect your business’s IP. The bad news is that the process of protecting your intellectual property can be a bit complex, as there are many legal requirements you need to meet, and making mistakes is incredibly easy. However, the good news is that I can help with the legal requirements while you focus on running your business.