Intellectual property (IP) is defined as any product of the human intellect such as inventions, designs and symbols, artwork, business and product names, website content, and other creations used in commerce. While the internet is a useful tool for businesses to reach a wide range of people, it simultaneously provides wide exposure to theft and copying. The importance of protecting your intellectual property cannot be emphasized enough and the four main ways to do so are through copyrights, trademarks, patents, and trade secrets.
Copyrights are used to protect a creator’s manuscripts, song lyrics, photographs, paintings, sound recordings, and other original ideas. Although you own the copyright at the time you create something, registering the copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office gives you exclusive and enhanced rights such as the ability to seek damages when infringements occur. In most cases a copyright expires 70 years after the death of the of the creator.
Trademarks are protected symbols, logos, words, or phrases that identify your service or product. A trademark should be registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and renewed every ten years. Because a trademark identifies goods and services as belonging to one owner you could run into disputes if your trademark is similar enough to that of another company.
How Do Patents Protect My Intellectual Property?
Patents protect unique inventions such as machines, equipment, chemical composition, or processes. Once patented, no one else can make or distribute your invention unless you have given them license to do so. Patents are granted by filing an application with the USPTO and are usually valid for 15 to 20 years after the filing date. Note that a patent cannot be obtained for something that already exists.
“Trade secrets” are not registered with any government office but are intellectual property important enough to a company that it cannot be shared with competitors or become public knowledge. To do so might seriously jeopardize the prospects of the company. Trade secrets can be protected with nondisclosure agreements that prevent involved parties from sharing information with outsiders. If you can show that your company had protocols and procedures in place to protect your trade secrets and a theft occurs, you will be able to seek damages in court. Intercompany theft of intellectual property and corporate espionage are federal offenses.
Additional Steps to Take to Protect Your Intellectual Property
After registering your intellectual property with the government and enforcing any infringements you can further protect your published work and ideas by using digital rights management to limit online access, preventing others from copying, saving, and editing your work, blocking them from printing, sharing, and taking screenshots, and watermarking your work to show ownership.
Documentation is also helpful in proving ownership of intellectual property. At every step of your creative process document in detail what you are doing and how by using drawings, plans, descriptions, and written records. Including the date on each one is critical as evidence of when you first produced your original creation.
Deciding how to apply these different kinds of intellectual property protections can be complicated and should be done with the counsel of an experienced business lawyer.
Philadelphia Business Lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green Protect and Defend Your Intellectual Property Rights
Have you experienced copyright, trademark, or patent infringement? At Sidkoff, Pincus & Green we aggressively defend and protect our clients’ intellectual property rights. To schedule a consultation with one of our experienced Philadelphia business lawyers, call 215-574-0600 today or contact us online. Located in Philadelphia, we represent clients throughout Pennsylvania and nationwide.