How to Protect Intellectual Property
Insuring your business identity, creative work, or inventions isn’t as easy as pulling out an insurance policy on a car or a house. Although it’s not necessary for you to obtain protection for your intellectual property (IP), it’s harder for you to protect your intangible products without formal documentation.
Three common ways to document ownership of intellectual property include Trademarks, Copyright, and Patents. The type of IP you’re looking to protect will determine which type you should get.
Why Is It Important to Protect Intellectual Property?
Registered intellectual property rights create a paper trail that proves you were the first to use a specific idea or design. Intellectual property encompasses everything from business names, slogans, and logos to written and artistic works to innovative machines that haven’t been crafted yet.
IP Protection prevents others from stealing or copying your material. While you can always ask someone to stop using your IP, it’s much harder to pursue legal action without having official documentation of ownership.
Since we live in the information age and it’s possible to access just about anything through a Google search, safeguarding your IP is more important than ever.
How Can I Protect My Intellectual Property?
At LegalZone, we make it easy to register your IP within minutes. The first step is determining exactly which type of documentation you need for your IP: Trademark, Copyright, or Patent.
What’s the Difference Between Trademarks, Copyrights, and Patents?
Trademarks: ™ or ®
Trademarks are used for business identification. You can register a trademark for your business’ name, logo, or slogan.
Copyrights are used for creative works such as books, songs, and photographs. While you automatically have copyright when you publish your work, registering your copyright through the government can prevent plagiarism of your work.
Patents are used to protect innovative designs and functions. Since you can’t register a patent until your invention is out in the world, you can always submit a provisional application to hold your spot and obtain “patent pending” status.
Why Should I Register a Trademark?
Registering your trademark gives you nationwide protection for your branding tools. If anyone attempts to copy your business name, logo, slogan, or anything else you use to distinguish your business, you can take legal action against them.
With Trademarks, you have to search to make sure no one already uses your chosen material before registration. When it comes to business names, you can use part of a name that’s already been registered if it’s in a completely different industry and won’t be confused with yours. (Delta Dental vs. Delta Airlines is an excellent example of this.)
What’s the Difference Between ™ and ®?
Anyone can use the ™ symbol to indicate the unique elements of their business. However, “TM” denotes an unregistered trademark, which means there’s no legal protection beyond “common law” ownership behind the character.
The ® symbol notes a registered trademark and provides legal protection. The “R” with the circle around it serves as proof that you registered your mark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
Why Should I Register a Copyright?
If you’ve written a novel, painted a masterpiece, or developed choreography for a new musical, registering a copyright protects others from stealing your work and passing it off as their own. An official copyright protects your work for the rest of your life and seventy years after your death.
Like Trademarks, you can put a copyright notice on your original works, but officially registering your work with the US Copyright Office gives you hard evidence when taking legal action against copyright infringers.
Why Should I Register a Patent?
If you’ve invented something completely new or a way to innovate an existing product, registering a patent ensures you get the credit for your work.
In the US, patents are given to the first person or group to file their patent paperwork for a particular invention. If you don’t have all of the details figured out, you can file for a provisional patent to hold your spot in line just in case someone else comes up with the same idea as you and files a patent first.
Most patents last for 15-20 years, and if your patent is registered through the USPTO, you can sell or license your patent for profit.
What’s the Difference Between a Utility Patent and a Design Patent?
A utility patent is used for innovation in how something works. You should register for a utility patent if you’ve created a machine, manufactured goods, processes, chemical processes, computer software, or something similar.
A design patent protects how a product looks. Your design can be for a handbag, a sofa, a cell phone, or anything in between. You should register for a design patent if you want to protect the appearance of a product.
Certain innovations will qualify for a utility and design patent if both the function and design are unique and operate independently.
Protecting Your Intellectual Property with LegalZone
You worked hard to develop and create your intellectual property, and we want to help you protect it. With LegalZone, all you have to do is answer a few questions about your IP, and we’ll take care of the rest.
If you’re still unsure which route to take for protecting your IP, or you want to learn a bit more about the different infringement protections, you can explore our other articles or contact LegalZone customer support today.
If you’re ready to move forward with protecting your creations with our experts at LegalZone, let’s get started.