Protecting your intellectual property can make the difference in your brand or business's success or ultimate failure. In fact, statistics show that intellectual property theft costs American companies nearly $300 billion per year. But newer entrepreneurs often are unclear about just which type of protection best applies to their products, services or works.
The World Intellectual Property Organization, one of 17 specialized agencies of the United Nations created in 1967 to encourage creative activity globally, defines intellectual property as "creations of the mind — inventions, literary and artistic works, symbols, names, images, and designs used in commerce."
Each of these "creations of the mind" falls into one of four primary categories:
- Patents: Patents cover tangible inventions and grant inventors the legal right to exclude any other person or company from manufacturing or marketing those inventions. Patent protection can be registered both in the US and internationally and can last for up to 20 years.
- Trademarks: Trademarks cover names, phrases, symbols or devices used to brand your company and to distinguish its goods and services from those of your company's competitors. A registered trademark affords owners the exclusive right to use the particular trademark or service mark in connection with the goods and services listed in filings with the state or federal government.
- Copyrights: Copyrights protect written or artistic expressions in more tangible mediums than trademarked material. Examples are song lyrics, books, and television and movie scripts. While law holds that you own copyright of a work the moment you create it, failing to officially register copyright protection of that work means that you forfeit your right to sue for copyright infringement should another party begin using your work or something suspiciously similar. Copyrights remain in effect for the life of the author plus another 50 years.
- Trade Secrets: Trade secrets can include a range of items including formulas, patterns, devices or compilations of data that add value to your company. Examples are a formula or ingredient mix for a food or drink product; an internet search engine's proprietary search algorithm; or a list of clients and their contact information. To be deemed a trade secret, information must be known only to a limited group, such as your company executives, and it should be clear and provable that improper release would put your company's success at risk.
Make sure your works and investments are protected in the marketplace. Call Daniel Law Offices in Orlando at 407-841-8375 or nationwide at 866-37PATENT (866-377-2836) and speak with an experienced intellectual property attorney today.