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The Importance of Intellectual Property Rights (and How to Protect It)
Intellectual property is often seen as the backbone of a business because it helps protect the innovations and ideas that go into many of the world’s well-known services and products. Think about KFC, McDonald’s, Honda, and other famous companies that others do not have permission to replicate.
If you are currently creating a book, piece of art, or machine that can stop global warming, you will want to know about your intellectual property rights.
This brief article will help you understand what those rights are, what kind you might have, and how to protect your intellectual property. We will also point you in the right direction of someone you can contact to answer any questions or concerns you have about intellectual property rights.
What Are Intellectual Property Rights?
Intellectual property, also known as IP, is a term for the ownership of and rights to specific creative works. This can include any inventions, artistic work, literary work, symbols, names, images, and designs used in business. Intellectual property owners have specific rights to their creations. Let’s use a creator of literary work, for example.
If you create literary work, you have the right to:
- Perform the work publicly
- Reproduce creative work
- Create other works from it
- Adapt other works from it
- Display the work publicly
- Sell copies of your work
You also have the right to license specific creative works for sale by others. For example, if you write a book and someone from a primary streaming service asks for your permission to turn it into a move, you can license the right for them to do so. pe
Different Types of Intellectual Property
Intellectual property laws in the United States set up the processes to grant rights to the creation or works of the creator. There are three main types of protections for intellectual property: trademarks, patents, and copyrights. You can register each of these types with a specific federal agency, and they each last for a predetermined amount of time.
Trademarks are used to register specific devices, words, names, or symbols to separate the services or goods from other types of businesses. The United States Trademark and Patent Office register these trademarks or service marks, and the registration does not have an end date. As long as the design remains distinctive and the owner files the required paperwork to upkeep the trademark.
Copyrights register the original works of authorship, including dramatic, literary, artistic, and musical works. These copyrights are governed and recorded by the United States Copyright Office.
Copyrights are suitable for the lifetime of the owner plus 70 years. There are also additional timelines for pseudonymous, joint, and anonymous work.
Any new and useful processes, machines, or inventions are registered under patents. Patent protection lasts for twenty years, and they are handled by a part of the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
It is important to note that creative work does not need to be registered to receive protection. If you foresee that someone may challenge your intellectual property or just be on the safer side, it may be best to patent your invention.
There are specific intellectual properties that you cannot register to be protected. For example, your book title or a domain name cannot be copyrighted.
Other intellectual property you cannot patent:
- A generic word, like “tree”
- An idea that is not new
Before you attempt to register intellectual property, be sure to check with the registration agency.
Businesses that operate in different countries may register their intellectual property internationally. If you want to learn more about conventions and treaties for specific countries, be sure to check out the World Intellectual Property Organization. Certain treaties allow you to file patents in multiple countries. Other countries require you to file patents and trademarks separately.
Other Types of Intellectual Property
Trade secrets are another form of intellectual property. Trade secrets are confidential information owned by someone they can license or sell. The owner of the trade secret has exclusivity over the trade secret.
To qualify for protection, the information must be valuable commercially, and the owner has a duty to keep the information confidential. This includes requiring key people to sign confidentiality agreements about the trade secret.
Trade secret examples:
- Commercial information such as customer and supplier lists
- Advertising strategies
- Financial information
- Computer programming source codes
- Computer designs and drawings
- Manufacturing processes
You can register some trade secrets. For example, if your company is well known for a secret recipe for a product, you can have the recipe copyrighted. When you register a trade secret, it makes the secret public but provides protection against sale or use from those other than yourself.
Digital Assets are your business websites, computer programs, and apps. These digital assets can receive the same level of protection as other physical assets.
Digital assets eligible for protection include:
- Computer programs
- Source code
- Logo or design of a website
- Content on social media, including photos and artwork
For content on social media platforms, be sure to take a look at their rules and regulations. Depending on what is in their terms and conditions, you may or may not have rights to what you post on social media.
Intellectual Property Violations
If you violate the intellectual property rights of another person’s company, you can face serious consequences. The most significant intellectual property violations consist of misappropriation of trade secrets, infringement, and counterfeit.
Common intellectual property violations:
- Creating a logo meant to confuse buyers into thinking they’re buying the name brand
- Recording music or video without prior authorization
- Copying someone else’s patent and calling it your own as a new patent
- Manufacturing patent goods without proper licensing
Anyone caught violating the intellectual property rights of another person or company can face an order of monetary damages and a cease and desist order. In most cases, the reproduced goods will also be confiscated.
Does My Small Business Need a Lawyer?
It would be an excellent idea to partner with a local lawyer with expertise in intellectual property rights. Your business does not necessarily “need” a lawyer, but having one on your side helps to protect your business best and keep your ideas safe.
What Does an Intellectual Property Business Lawyer Do?
Intellectual property lawyers help clients find the best way to guard their intellectual property. They also help them license and use their IP.
For example, many businesses reach out to a business lawyer to research the availability of certain trademarks. If there is already an active trademark, the lawyer can help determine if they need to alter their design or drop the idea altogether.
Intellectual Property Protection
When you enlist the help of an attorney, they can help you complete the process of getting your intellectual property protected. They will do the best they can to ensure that your intellectual property has the highest rights available.
Your attorney will handle preparing and transmitting your application to the United States Patent and Trademark Office. While you wait for the trademark or patent to clear and get issued, your attorney will handle any questions or concerns the patent and trademark agency may have.
Enforces Intellectual Property Rights
Your business lawyer will enforce intellectual property rights by protecting you against infringement. Litigation against violators includes criminal prosecution in federal court.
On an international level, it is much more challenging. Depending on what country you do business in, your attorney will need to research the local politics in that country and how they handle infringement.
When to Get an Attorney for a Patent
You don’t need a lawyer to write and file a patent on your own, but is it beneficial to have one on your side. If you have an invention, there could be elements of the invention that can be hard for you to see on your own.
Those unseen elements may need a specific patent or particular language in the patent that you may not be aware of. To avoid headaches, it makes more sense to reach out to an attorney early in the process to protect your business assets.
Costs of Intellectual Property Protections
The cost to secure intellectual property protections may also include your attorney’s fees. Although paying for an attorney adds to your initial fees, it can save you a lot of money in the long run.
For a provisional patent, you should expect to pay between $5,000 to $10,000 in addition to attorney fees. Provisional patents are not actual patents.
These patents protect your intellectual property for up to one year. You will need to get a non-provisional patent before your 12 months are up.
A non-provisional patent is a patent that protects your intellectual property for as long as it is in effect. Your non-provisional patent application includes search, review, and examination fees in addition to your lawyer’s fees. In general, you can expect to pay between $8,000 and $16,000 for a non-provisional patent.
The cost to trademark your business name varies between $225 to $400 per trademark class. You can only register one trademark per application. If you have multiple names you wish to trademark, you will need to send in different applications.
TEAS Plus trademarks cost $225 per trademark, and it is the least expensive application. Your business must fit into one of the patent and trademark office’s categories of goods and services. You will need to pay the per-class filing fee up front, and you must remain in contact with the United States Patent and Trademark Office through email and their online system.
The TEAS RF is similar to the TEAS Plus, but you don’t have to choose your goods and services upfront. Instead, you can request a custom class of services if your trademark does not fit into one of the existing categories. The TEAS RF application is $275 per trademark.
The TEAS Regular is the most expensive trademark application. If you want custom classes and the option to receive paper correspondence from the United States Patent and Trademark Office, this trademark is for you. The TEAS Regular trademark is $400 per trademark.
As of this writing, those prices for each trademark are up to date. The United States Patent and Trademark Office often changes its fees from time to time. Be sure to check their website for an updated list of their fee schedule.
Transferring Intellectual Property
If you would like to, you can transfer your intellectual property rights, just like any other type of property. If you plan on transferring your rights to intellectual property, be sure to enlist the help of a reputable attorney to make sure everything goes as planned.
It would be best to make your intellectual property a part of your estate plan. With the potential for generating revenue for decades to come, your intellectual property can be a very valuable part of your estate planning.
Also, it is not uncommon for employers to include agreements in their employee’s contracts explicitly outlining that the inventions created as a part of the employer’s job are the employer’s property.
Protect Your Ideas Today
In today’s modern society, you may be quick to post about your new invention with the idea that people will get excited and will want to help bring your ideas to life. That is not always the case, though.
There are people out there who will try to take your idea and make it their own. To best protect yourself, you will want to partner with a reputable business lawyer who can help you file your patent or trademark and who can advise you of your intellectual property rights. Contact us now to start the process of protecting your greatest inventions!
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