There are over 2,500 to 2,600 lawsuits filed every year on the grounds of patent and copyright infringement. Unfortunately, Intellectual Property (IP) disagreements are more common than you thought! So, what exactly is Intellectual Property? And if a violation is so common, how can you protect it? Read on to find out all about IP laws (yes, there are more than one), which ones apply to your business, and how to go about registering your asset as IP.
What is an Intellectual Property?
What is the first thought you know when you hear the word business asset? Your office building, your employees, your products or services? Well, yes. All of these are assets that every business owner, however, small their business may be, treasures. The first thing you do after you lease out that expensive office space is getting insurance, just in case something terrible happens.
In the same way, some other forms of assets are not material and cannot be touched (intangible) but are just as important (in some cases, more important) as other physical assets. These include a new invention, original art or literature content, the brand name and logo, design, ideas, etc. All of these are called Intellectual Property.
So, what do you do if someone willfully or unintentionally steals or copies your original work? The answer to this is IP laws – copyrights, trademarks, and patents.
Copyrights, Patents, Trademarks – Same but Different!
There are three types of IP laws to protect your intangible assets – copyright, trademark and patent. While all of them do the same thing – give you protection again theft and fraudulence, they are pretty different in how they do it. Here's a small brief of each of these Intellectual Property laws.
- Copyright – It covers all original and creative work like music, all forms of audio-visual content, painting, recipes etc. When you create an original work, you are automatically the copyright owner for that. Still, you should register for copyright for all legal purposes. If there is a case of infringement, your IP (Intellectual Property) attorney will help you better if your work is registered.
- Trademark – All business assets that help identify your business and distinguish it from competitors qualify for Trademark IP laws. These include – the brand name, logo, slogans, and other marketing materials. It is crucial to protect these assets because they are often the first thing a customer identifies with your business (Finger-Lickin’ good can only mean KFC and the BMW logo is enough to show the brand’s credibility).
To avoid other businesses from stealing your customer base, you must register your trademark assets with the USPTO. While customers can still identify your business if you don't register, it is challenging to claim compensation with unregistered trademarks in case of someone infringing your brand.
- Patents – A patent is very similar to copyright but usually covers an invention like novel machinery, a biochemical formula etc. It is valid for 20 years after you file for one, and you can apply for one online with USPTO. As a patent owner, you can choose to monetize your invention as you like and lease it to a third party.
How to Protect your Company’s Intellectual Property?
- Exercise Your IP Laws – A trademark, patent, copyright law protects the interest of these assets against theft and loss in business. It is wise to get your assets registered.
- Register your Website Domain, Products/Services – You should register other assets like the website domain early so that others don't end up buying it while you are still in the prep stage.
- Make Strong Confidentiality, Non-Disclosure Contracts – Hire trademark lawyers or company law specialists to draft legally robust NDA documents so that your employees and contractors cannot copy your technology or idea.
Even if you are a new business owner or a budding artist producing great original content for your Instagram reels, Intellectual Property thefts and infringement applies to you too. So, get your IP registered without any delays to protect what is yours from thefts.
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