Intellectual Property Law: An Overview of Your Options

Protecting your company’s intellectual property (IP) is one of the most important things you can do as a business owner. This is because your IP is one of the most valuable aspects of your business, so making sure it stays safe and secret is essential to your company’s continued success. There are several different types of IP and, depending on what your company does, you may need to think about more than one type. That is why it’s a good idea to work with an experienced IP lawyer to make sure you’ve done everything right and that all of your IP is securely protected. So, what are the types of IP you should know? How are they different? Although we can’t cover it all here, below is a brief overview of your options.

Trademarks

Trademark protection includes IP that takes the form of symbols, marks, designs, slogans, or words that a company uses to give its business a public identity. In other words, trademarks are what the public will remember about your business, much like the Nike swoosh and Just Do It slogan has helped make Nike an instantly recognizable brand all around the world. Trademarks are so important because they help distinguish your company from its competitors and can strike a chord with your customer, making your product or service something they’ll remember. Applying for a trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is fairly straightforward, but it’s still a good idea to work with an IP lawyer to make sure you don’t make any mistakes that result in your application’s denial.

Copyrights

In contrast with trademarks, copyrights are a legal right granted to the creators of original works. To be eligible for copyright, your work does not need to be published, but it does need to have been fixed in a tangible medium (e.g. written down or recorded). One important thing to point out here is that a copyright cannot protect an idea or concept but only the actual words that you’ve written, melodies that you’ve recorded, and so on. The governing body for copyrights is the United States Copyright Office, and it’s there that you’ll register your works to secure their protection.

Patents

Patents protect new inventions. In order to obtain a patent, you must file an application with the USPTO. Even though the application process is tedious and complex, the payoff is well worth it. In addition to legal protection, a patent grants you exclusive rights that enable you to use your invention however you want for a period of 20 years. In other words, you’ll be able to produce, use, or sell your invention without worrying about anyone else stealing your ideas. If someone does try to copy you, having a patent grants you the ability to file a suit for patent infringement with the courts.

Trade Secrets

In general, trade secrets include any business information that companies deem confidential. They include things like manufacturing processes, advertising strategies, secret formulas, and even information related to your employees and customers. Trade secrets are a little bit different from the previous three types of IP we’ve listed because there is no governing body that regulates them. That said, the U.S. government is still obligated to provide protection under the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). So, work with your lawyer to make sure you monitor your secrets and file with the courts for protection if necessary.

Contact an Experienced Intellectual Property Lawyer Today

Safeguarding your intellectual property is essential for protecting your business from unethical competitors and promoting it in the eyes of potential customers. At Integrated General Counsel, we regularly help our clients with all aspects of this important process. If you have questions about your IP, please don’t hesitate to contact us today!

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Written by Integrated General Counsel

Our focus includes handling a variety of corporate matters and also includes litigation in state and federal courts. Our current practice includes providing transactional services and representing a variety of small and medium-sized companies as their outsourced general counsel.