As an entrepreneur and small business owner, some of the most precious assets are intangible and are considered, rather than real or physical, intellectual property.
As you protect your valuable tangible property with insurance, legal records, and locks, you may defend your ideas and inventions similarly.
Differences between Trademarks, Copyrights and Patents
First, you’ll have to be aware of the difference between the different kinds of intellectual property protection. Do you require a patent or trademark or copyright for your specific company usage?
The objective of a patent is to protect creations.
It’s a right which is awarded to the inventor of the national government that authorizes the inventor to stop people from selling, manufacturing or using their invention for a specified period.
The US patent system has been designed to promote devices which are distinct and encourage society. There are 3 distinct classes of patents:
- Utility patent — The most common kind of patent for new machines, chemicals, manufacturing procedures. The patent coverage is for the usefulness or usage of this item.
- Design patent — Protects the layout of objects manufactured either the ornamentation or general design.
- Plant patents — Invention of live plant types including hybrids.
All inventions must meet certain criteria for patent eligibility. The innovation must be both “novel and non-obvious.” This means it must differ from different devices and cannot be publicly sold or improved by another originator within one year of the application.
Utility patents require the inventor proves that the viability of his creation. There has to be a valuable use, and the thing has to be operable.
Creators such as artist, songwriters, and authors can file for copyrights to their work. Copyrights protect physical functions of art, songs, recordings, writing, books, photos, film, and performance art.
Know that copyrights will last for the lifetime of the author plus an additional 70 decades. These rights are for both published and unpublished works.
The main purpose of the copyright is to protect the creativity, work and time of this artist. The US copyright act gives the proprietor those exclusive rights:
- Reproduction rights to its work
- capability to make derivative works — brand new works based on the original work
- Distribute copies of this work by sale, lease, or other transfers of ownership
- Perform the work publicly
- Display the work publicly
Most business owners use trademarks for titles, logos, and symbols that identify their commercially available services and products.
While trademarks do safeguard the brand name of the product, they don’t protect the actual product from being marketed under a different name by an unscrupulous competitor.
An instance is that Starbucks can copyright Frappucino for their iced mixed beverages, it does not stop other restaurants from serving iced mixed drinks. However, those restaurants cannot call them a Frappucino.
FAQ About intellectual property
1. Can I trademark my logo?
Yes. The United States trademark and patent office consider a trademark as “a word, phrase, symbol, or design, or combination thereof that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those from a different,”.i.e., your business logo.
Your trademark rights begin when you set your emblem into the sales marketplace. When you start to advertise your product with your logo, your rights have started in law.
So while you’re not required to register your trademark with the US patent office, it is advisable to do this for these reasons:
- U.S. Customs and border defense will confiscate any bogus or trademark infringing foreign goods
- Protection under the Federal Anti cyber-squatting Consumer Protection Act, which prevents others from buying web domain names that are the same or similar to your company name.
- Ability to an infringement lawsuit in federal court, as opposed to state court.
- Recognized as the proprietor of that trademark throughout the United States
2. What is the difference between a utility and design patent?
The main difference between both of these types of patents is a utility patent protects the way in which the innovation is used and works, even though a design patent protects the way the apparatus seems.
Design patents protect the ornamental appearance of the item, including its shape and surface.
3. How can I get a patent pending on my product?
As soon as you have submitted a patent application to the United States patent and trademark office your goods are considered patent pending. You’re allowed to describe your innovation as pending until you receive final approval.
While you are not legally required to put patent pending in your product packaging, many company lawyers imply you do. This is because you cannot start a lawsuit for patent pending breach unless the product informs others of your patent pending status
4. Can I copyright my company name?
No, You want to trademark your business name. Copyrights are for the protection of works of art; trademarks are for the protection of commercially used product and brand names.
About the Author: Marsha Kelly sold her first business for more than a million dollars. She has shared hard-won experiences as a successful serial entrepreneur on her Best4Business blog.