If you create a new and original product, service or process, the law offers you a certain degree of protection against anyone who uses, claims, modifies, or sells it. In other terms, your creation may be your intellectual property, and knowing how to legally protect it is very crucial for retention purposes.
According to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), intellectual property (also referred to as IP) refers to the creation of the mind, such as artistic and literary works, inventions, designs as well as names, symbols, and images that are used in commerce. It is worth noting that it is not the ideas but their expression in a specific form. Therefore, a great notion or thought of a future product, service or process is not an intellectual property.
4 Types of Intellectual Property
There are four conventional types of IP: patents, copyrights, trademarks (which include design rights) and trade secrets. Here is a look at the meaning of these common types of IP, how they are distinguished, and how to protect them if anyone tries to infringe upon them.
WIPO defines copyright (also referred to as author’s right) as the legal term which is used to describe rights that people who create have over their artistic and literary works. However, copyright protection covers a wide range of works which include music, paintings, books, film and sculptures as well as databases, computer programs, technical drawings, maps, musical compositions, photographs and advertisements. If you have a copyright protection, you may sue someone who claims that he or she wrote or owns something that you wrote or an art that you created. All your original written or artistic work are copyrighted at the time you create them. However, to defend that copyright in a court of law, you should obtain an official copyright from a copyright office.
Most times, there is a confusion on the items that are copyrighted. Ideas cannot be protected since they have not been put together to come up with something visible. Additionally, using the works without permission, even if you are giving the creator credit as being the source of the work, is still considered to be a violation of the copyright law.
According to most copyright offices, a visual copyright notice should contain three elements:
- The symbol ©, the word “Copyright,” or the abbreviation “Copr.”
- The name of the copyright owner
- The year of first publication
Registering a symbol or symbolic slogan of what you use to define your brand is known as trademark. A trademark is the words, numbers, symbols or even unique packaging that distinguishes your brand. Once you are registered, you can use the registered ® logo to notify the public that you own the symbol or name.
In some states, trademark can be written as TM which means that you claim a trademark that is unregistered. If another company or another person uses your trademark, you may sue them for trademark violation. You may also be able to take legal termination and cease action against them. Though, if the trademark is not registered, the lawsuit will be more difficult.
Design and Trade Dress Rights
This protection protects the shape of a product, color or feel. These rights are protected by an international treaty that makes it possible for the owner of a design to sue the imitators. There have been a number of famous lawsuits over products that resemble the look and feel of a competitor. This is mostly common especially in the software industry. Keep in mind that before looking to file for a trade dress protection, be sure to understand what features of your product are unique to your creation and can be protected. Otherwise, this protection will not favor you.
When you create something original, you have a certain degree of protection against someone else who can use, claim, or modify the work under their name. As you start and grow, you will create materials that become your products or represent your business. Therefore, knowing how to legally protect your originality will protect you from piracy of your work. Some of these works may be blog content and books, logos, or products and formulas.
This protection deals with the act of regional commerce. This means that the trade secret legislation is similar in coverage but was passed at state levels. A patent is an exclusive right to a product that allows the owner to prevent others from commercially selling that item. This protection allows the owner to sue any party found to be benefiting from your invention that you have duly registered. Some trade secrets go hand in hand with patent protection.
Trade secrets are any confidential business information that is useful for growing your business. They are harder to protect legally. The claimant to a trade secret therefore must prove that he or she has made every effort to protect the secret. Always keep any sensitive documents like recipes or customer lists locked away in a secure storage option. This is to prevent any thief from accessing your product. Small businesses must also be aware of the rights claimed by other companies and competitors.
Intellectual property laws can be vast and can work together, but can also be complex. Contact the Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas (LRS) to find an intellectual property lawyer that can help you understand your rights.