Startup Mindset: The Four types of Intellectual Property

23-05-10 ...

Are you a business owner and want to familiarize yourself with the four types of intellectual property, otherwise known as IP? Ideas of all kinds, including discoveries, inventions, and works of literature and art, can be created by human minds. We speak with many entrepreneurs who don’t know where to begin when it comes to protecting their ideas and inventions.  Owners who take advantage of some ideas can gain economic benefits and significant profits. Therefore, before putting these intangible creations on the market, their owners of intellectual property (IP) should seek legal protection. However, securing exclusive rights for inventors, authors, or businesses, as well as safeguarding these priceless assets is not without its difficulties. Additionally, there will come a time when you will need to share your intellectual property and trade secrets internally and externally with a partner within your organization. Hence, careful consideration must still be taken to protect IP even after you’ve received one of the protections explained below.  

Sadly, many business owners are unaware of the various kinds of intellectual property; as a result, they are unsure of the appropriate actions to take to either encourage its creation or protect it. IP laws are in place to protect ideas and concepts from any unfair competition using four different types of Intellectual Properties.

Patents

A patent is a license granted by the government to the owner of an invention for a predetermined time period. The owner is allowed to create, use, and market their invention. In return, they make information about their creation available to the public. They also have exclusive rights and can control who cannot sell, make, use, or distribute their product. An example, the personal computer, which Steve Jobs and three other Apple Inc. employees filed in 1980, is one of the most well-known patents of the past 40 years. 

There are three different types of patents: plant, design and utility. Design patents can last 14 years, while plant and utility patents can last 20 years.

Plant Patents: 

These are for plant varieties that are produced asexually by layering or grafting. For instance, these patents can safeguard a particular array of rose bushes or a specific species of plant.

Design Patents: 

These include both the design of a manufactured object and an original or new design. The non-functional design and appearance of an invention may be covered by these patents. One example is a smart thermostat that can monitor the environment.

Utility Patents: 

These talk about how inventions work and where they came from. Machines, manufactured goods or processes, and any product enhancements fall under this category of patents. One example is the Apple air pods, which block out background noise.

Patent Law - USPTO

To file any of those patents, you must encounter four requirements:

    • The subject matter must be “patentable” (as defined by Congress and the courts).
    • Your idea must be “new.”
    • Your idea must be “useful.”
    • Your idea must be “non-obvious.”

Applications for patents can take a long time and are expensive. However, patents can be valid for either 14 to 20 years from the issue date. After receiving their patent, the individual or business may be required to pay additional attorney fees every few years. And, like trademarks, patents are only acceptable in the country where the patent was granted. So, entrepreneurs must consider which countries and markets require patent protection.

Patent Stamp in blue

Important: Patents protect the intellectual property of companies and help ensure their profitability, but patents also serve as marketing for a company's innovation.

 

Trademarks 

A trademark is a well-known badge, phrase, word, or symbol that distinguishes one product from all others of its kind and is protected by law. A trademark only acknowledges a company's ownership of a brand and identifies a product as belonging to that company. Like the Easy Trademark logo or the McDonald's logo, trademarks should be easily recognizable. 

The term Trademark can be used to cover both trademarks and service marks. Products are marked with a trademark; Services are marked with a "service mark." When a company or individual uses a trademark, it prevents others from using their goods or services without permission. Additionally, they prohibit any marks that could be mistaken for another. This means that a company cannot use a symbol or brand name that looks, sounds, or means the same as one already in use, specifically if the products or services are related. For instance, a trademark company cannot legally use a symbol that looks like that of Easy Trademark, and it cannot use a name that sounds like Easy. 

The ® symbol is used to identify trademarks around the world and is registered through the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). However, trademarks do not need to be registered to grant the business or individual rights to protection. The TM symbol can be used to identify trademarks that have not been registered. The trademark owner indicates that they are utilizing common law to safeguard their interests by employing this symbol.

With all that explained, Trademarks has many benefits that includes: 

    • Determining where your products or services come from
    • Providing your brand with legal protection
    • Preventing fraud and counterfeiting

Also, entrepreneurs shouldn't look for trademarks that only say something about their products or services. Unique words or phrases are more likely to be eligible for trademark protection and are much simpler to safeguard. "Easy Trademark," for instance, is a better and more distinctive mark than "Intellectual Property Protection Services." Importantly, new business owners must protect trademarks by actively pursuing infringers, using the mark or a similar mark, and preventing it from becoming generic among consumers.

While patents and copyrights can expire, trademark rights come from the use of the trademark, and, therefore, can be held indefinitely. Like copyright, registration of a trademark is not required, but registering can offer additional advantages. 

The trademark laws remain in effect forever. This indicates that the owner retains ownership of the trademark throughout the product's or service's lifetime. However, there are a few exceptions to benefit from trademark laws. The user must continue to use the trademark legally. Therefore, for the trademark law to be enforceable, a company or individual must regularly manufacture, produce, market, and sell a product bearing a particular trademark. This can be accomplished by submitting a Section 8 declaration to the USPTO every five years. The registration may be revoked if this is not filed.

Trademark Law - USPTO

Important: A trademark does not need to be registered for the owner to prevent others from using it or a confusingly similar mark.

Copyright 

Legal protection, known as copyright, grants ownership rights to your original works. When you create a creative work covered by US copyright laws, it automatically receives legal protection. Copyright safeguards your original, published, or unpublished works against theft or plagiarism. In addition, copyright applies to original works of creative expression such as paintings, photograph, musical compositions, computer programs, movies, and plays. The copyright goes to the original creator of the work, who can choose to sell their rights to other parties. George Washington: America's First Entrepreneur published a book called “First Entrepreneur: How George Washington Built His – and the Nation’s – Prosperity”, he had his book protected by using copyright.

The creator receives exclusive rights under copyright to:

    • Reproduce the work
    • Distribute or sell the work
    • Display or perform the work publicly
    • Create derivative works based on the original work

There are some exceptions to copyright protection. Copyrighted works can be used or borrowed for "fair use" purposes, like education or commentary, without the author's permission under section 107 of the Copyright Act.

Users will be informed by a copyright notice that work is protected by copyright, decreasing the likelihood of copyright infringement. As the infringer should have been aware that your content was copyrighted, having a copyright notice strengthens your case in court in the event of infringement.

You write a copyright notice by including three components in the following order:

    • The copyright symbol (©) or the word (copyright)
    • Years of publication: A year or a range of years if your content gets updated.
    • Name of the copyright owner: This can be an individual, multiple individuals, an organization, or a business.

Copyright Policy - USPTO

Trade Secrets

A valuable piece of information that a person or company wants to keep a secret is known as a trade secret. Any formula, idea, recipe, work, device, design, or process can be considered a trade secret. A trade secret gives a person or company an advantage over others in the market. As a result, it has financial advantages. Customer lists, business plans, recipes, special algorithms, soda formulas, and surveys are all examples. These include information about the company's procedures, data from research and development, and so on. Since confidential information and unfair competition are generally protected, theft of trade secrets constitutes immoral practices. After looking at the specifics of each case, the law can't answer the question of trade secret protection violations.

A piece of information must have the following characteristics to be considered a trade secret:

    • People outside the company are unaware of its potential commercial value.
    • Only a small number of people are authorized to be aware of it.
    • The respective authority takes reasonable steps to conceal the information by using non-disclosure agreements and other confidentiality agreements for business partners and employees.
    • Money or effort spent by the company to develop the information and how easy would it be for others to duplicate the information.
    • Value of competitor information.

A trade secret contains both technical and commercial information. Knowledge of a product's manufacturing processes, the outcomes of pharmaceutical industry tests, formulas, drawings, designs, prototypes, and other necessary information are all examples of technical information. Information about distribution methods, business management strategies, lists of key suppliers, and different advertising strategies are examples of commercial information secrets.

Trade secrets / regulatory data protection

Trade Secret - StampImportant: If a trade secret holder fails to safeguard the secret or if the secret is independently discovered, released, or becomes general knowledge, protection of the secret is removed.

Both creative works and industrial innovations and iterations are protected by the four main types of intellectual property. Inventions and creativity as we know them today may not even be possible without them. There is statistically a good chance that you are using one more IP, regardless of the industry you work in. If they haven't been registered, go to the closest government agency right away to start the registration process and ensure reputation and profit margins of your brand. All in all, every entrepreneur must have a thorough understanding of the various Intellectual Property types. The company's patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets are valuable assets that must be safeguarded by knowing how they function and are created.

 

 

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