Intellectual property may seem difficult to protect because it is not something so tangible as office equipment. When you close down your office for the day, you lock the doors, perhaps set an alarm, lock laptops to desks, etc. How though do you protect your ideas?
Intellectual property laws are becoming even more important as businesses work to meet the demands of information-seeking consumers. Becoming a trusted knowledge source is crucial in so many industries—in some cases, intellectual property is not only used to begin a discourse but sometimes is the product itself.
Patents are intellectual property rights which are offered specifically to inventors. Before you dive into applying for a patent, it’s important to distinguish between the three different kinds of patents:
- Utility Patents “may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof.”
- Design Patents “may be granted to anyone who invents a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture.”
- Plant Patents “may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plant.”
Trademarks and service marks protect a brand name. For example, Disney is a protected brand. While it’s doubtful that there would exist a company that would try to market itself as Disney if it wasn’t connected at all to that business, there are other elements to branding. The font used in the famous “Walt Disney” signature/logo is protected. Businesses trying to use that font may find themselves facing a lawsuit from Disney.
You’re not required to register a trademark or service mark, but there are perks to registering your brand, such as:
- Your claim of ownership on the trademark or service mark will be publically noted.
- Your business will be presumed the legal owner of your brand throughout the country.
- Your business and none other will possess the exclusive right to use that trademark or service mark to brand the registered goods and services.
A copyright protects intellectual property such as books, music, and artistic works, to name a few. In most cases, only the creator of the work can claim copyright of that work. An exception would be if your business hires a freelance writer, for example, to create work for hire. In most cases, your business owns that work and would be considered the author, in which case your business can apply for copyright protection of that work.