Intellectual Property that Every Business Owner: Modern corporations have a lot on their plate, their property being one of their biggest assets. All the buildings, the lands, the contracts, the money in their bank accounts – all these possessions must be protected.
That being said, while physical property is important, it’s not the only thing business owners must be concerned about. Intellectual property is just as important, and you need to learn more about it if you want your business to succeed.
Patents are some of the most important intellectual properties that your business has. Patents are government-granted monopolies that allow you to create, use or sell an invention – while preventing others from doing so as well. Once you’ve been issued a patent, it is typically valid for 20 years – although some may only have 14-year validity.
Once that patent expires, anyone can copy and use it in whichever way they see fit. When you obtain said “monopoly,” you will be required to disclose the details of that invention. If anyone decides to “recreate” it after the patent expires, they will be free to do so – although you will be the one with the rights.
There are different types of patents, such as design patents, utility patents, plant patents, and many more. Sometimes, these patents may be quite difficult to maintain, as they require yearly fees and a variety of paperwork. You may need to look into some good intellectual property lawyers, to ensure you do not lose your rights over the patent.
Trademarks are phrases, symbols, designs, and words (or maybe a combination of them) that can identify a product. A trademark is quite useful for a business as it helps market your products while providing legal protection against counterfeit and fraud.
Having a trademark doesn’t necessarily mean you own that particular phrase. However, it means that you have the right to how it is used for a specific type of service or certain goods. Trademarks have to be used in a way that they are not generic to the public mind. For example, Band-Aid may not be used as a trademark, as the term itself is much too generic.
Trademarks are valid for 10 years after registration. Still, unless it is protected, a company can lose its trademark. The giant McDonald’s lost the “BigMac” trademark after a lawsuit with the fast-food chain Supermac.
Copyright protects the rights of authorship for a certain creation. This can be anything from a paper to a book, a song, a photograph, a movie, etc. If something as simple as a phrase from your company’s podcast has been used, or a picture has been used without permission, then you are in all rights to sue the person that used it for copyright infringement.
For example, in 2016, Justin Bieber was sued for copyright infringement, after his song “Sorry” showed a lot of similarities to a song released by Skrillex, namely “Ring a Bell.” The lawsuit was eventually dropped, but it bought Bieber a fair amount of bad publicity.
Copyright is applied automatically after the work is released, but it may also be enhanced by simply registering it. While this registration is not necessary, it can help you seek a settlement for damages in case the copyright is infringed.
Businesses have lots of confidential information to deal with, but they aren’t all referred to as trade secrets. Trade secrets are some aspects of your business that the general public does not know, and reasonable effort is made so that it stays confidential. As long as other parties are not in on the trade secret, it offers significant economic value to the business.
Trade secrets are defined differently from state to state, but to put it as simply as possible, it is something that you may not want your competition to know about. It can be a business plan, a marketing strategy, formulas for different products, a secret ingredient, and so on.
Trade secrets are treated based on how the business owner treats them as well. For example, if you offer marketing plans to your customers without some type of contract, then it cannot be labeled as a non-disclosure agreement. However, if they did sign such an agreement, then you may sue if they share your trade secrets with someone else.
The Bottom Line
Intellectual properties are just as valuable for companies as physical, tangible property. As a result, you need to know how to protect them. A lawyer can be very helpful when it comes to the legal side of the business.