Protect the Intellectual Property in Your Business

By: LawInfo

The largest companies in the world today owe their value not only to the property they own or the property they manufacture, but also to their "intellectual property" - the ideas they create.  Microsoft’s value is not based just on the number of DVDs it sells, but the computer code that is on those DVDs.  Google’s value exists because of patents that protect how Google’s search engine algorithms are written.  Walt Disney is heavily valued by the large copyright and trademark portfolio the company owns for their characters, films, music and other media.  Think about it… how much is the simple sketch of a big eared mouse, “Mickey Mouse”, or a web page address, Yahoo.com, worth?  They are both examples of intellectual property.

While some states have their own laws protecting copyright and trademarks, to fully protect intellectual property, a person or a business needs to register patents and trademarks with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and copyrights with the Copyright Office of the Library of Congress.

What is Intellectual Property
According to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), intellectual property is divided into two categories: 1) Industrial Property: including inventions (patents), trademarks, industrial designs, and geographic indications of source; and 2) Copyright (Library/Artistic Property): including literary and artistic works such as novels, poems and plays, films, musical works, text and images on a World Wide Web (WWW) site, architectural designs, scientific publications, and artistic works such as drawings, paintings, photographs and sculptures, as well as performing artists in their performances, producers of phonograms in their recordings, and broadcasters in their radio and television programs.

Trademarks
A trademark can be a logo, name, symbol, or device used to differentiate a product or service of a business from that of another business.  A trademark is identified by the symbol ® or ™.  A trademark registration is for an initial ten years but may be re-registered indefinitely.

Patents
A patent is a property right given to someone who creates a new, inventive and useful or industrially applicable process or product.  Unlike a copyright, which sometimes requires compulsory licensing, or allows the fair use of a copyrighted work, a patent allows the inventor to exclude everyone else from using the invention in any commercial manner.  This exclusion gives the patent owner the exclusive ability to sell the product as well as to license its use by other parties.

Copyrights
A copyright protects original works of art, literature, music and other artistic fields.  The copyright gives the author the exclusive right to reproduce, sell or perform the copyrighted work, including selling or licensing the work to another party, and the work is protected until 70 years after the author’s death.  A fair use exception is granted for scholarly and other types of use of copyrighted works.

If you own or are starting a business you probably have intellectual property that you should act to protect.  You probably have intellectual property that you may not even know about.  An experienced attorney can help you determine what may be protected and the steps you need to take to obtain a copyright, trademark or patent.

For more information on intellectual property, contact an intellectual property attorney today.

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