Protecting Your Intellectual Property: How and Why

Protecting your intellectual property is crucial to the success of your business. What is your intellectual property and how should you protect it?

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by Chris Hinson

Protecting your intellectual property is crucial to the success of your business. What is your intellectual property and how should you protect it? Intellectual property consists of items that you have created that are unique and that provide you with an economic benefit. Intellectual property includes inventions, designs, original works of authorship and trade secrets. How you protect your intellectual property depends on what types of intellectual property you have.

Patents

Inventions are crucial to the success of many businesses. If your business has developed a new and better product or process that is unique, useful, and non-obvious you will want to protect the competitive advantage this gives you by obtaining a patent. The holder of a patent can stop third parties from making, using or selling his invention for a period of years depending on the type of invention. Obtaining a patent can be complicated, so you may want to hire an attorney with experience in patent law to help you.

If your business is one in which inventions are created on a continuing basis, it is very important that you have a clear understanding about who owns the inventions. Does your business own the inventions or do the employees who create the inventions own them? This can depend on the type of work arrangement you have. You will want to make sure workers sign an agreement that any inventions created by them while working for your business belong to the business.

Copyrights

A copyright provides protection for original works of authorship, fixed in a tangible medium of expression including literary, musical, and dramatic works, as well as photographs, audio and visual recordings, software, and other intellectual works. Copyright protection begins as soon as the work is fixed in a tangible medium. The author should begin using the copyright symbol immediately as a method of informing others that he intends to exercise control over the production, distribution, display, and or performance of the work. While it is not necessary to file for copyright protection, doing so will make it easier to seek court enforcement of your copyright. You should consult an attorney about the advantages and disadvantages of filing.

Trademarks

A trademark protects the name of your product by preventing other business from selling a product under the same name. Having a unique and identifiable name for your product is an advantage for your business. Trademark law seeks to protect consumers from confusion or deception by preventing other businesses from using the same or a confusingly similar name for their products. A servicemark is used when what your business sells is a service rather than a product. Being the first to use the name is important to protect the continuing right to use the name, but filing is important for enforcement purposes. The first step in filing for trademark registration is performing a trademark search. This step is extremely important because it could prevent you from investing a lot in the promotion of a product under a trademark that is already in use. An attorney who practices in the area of intellectual property can help you with a trademark search and application.

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