At some point during their professional lives, entrepreneurs of every stripe can find themselves in need of protecting their intellectual property. Current forms of defense consist of patents, copyrights and trademarks, and each exists for just one reason: to ride shotgun on ideas that belong by rights to no one other than you.
Appropriate intellectual property defense gives you the legitimate right to bring legal action against infringement of your ideas by any outside party. The nature of your enterprise will dictate which of these strategies will suit you best.
Protecting Your Invention by Patent
If you’ve just dreamed up a breakthrough invention that might even change the world, say nothing about it to anyone until you’ve obtained a patent. A shared secret is a secret no more. Unguarded ideas are easily stolen, and if you let this cat out of the bag too soon, someone else could have your product manufactured and sitting on the big-box shelves before you’ve had the chance to build a prototype.
By then, it will be too late. Without a patent, you’ll have no way of proving that you thought of it first. Always keep your inventions under wraps until you’ve had them safely patented. Once you’ve taken this vital step, you can and should promote them all you want.
Protecting Your Brand by Trademark
Never neglect to register your brand. Unless someone else has chosen it already, you can do this at any time regardless of how well-known your name and business may have already become. Once you have it registered, though, it is incumbent upon you to use and display it often as well as to renew it before it expires.
The more uncommon your chosen brand, the more important this becomes. If you’re lucky, it could become a household name, shielding your product even after its patent has expired and competitors have flooded the marketplace with similar versions.
Protecting Your Works by Copyright
While they don’t safeguard your ideas per se, copyrights do prevent third parties from making off with the words you have used to describe them. If you’ve written a book, recorded a video, designed computer software or created any other type of original work, a copyright automatically comes into play and remains in effect throughout your lifetime and beyond. Unless you register that copyright, though, you’ll have little legal recourse against anyone who tries to steal your works.
Protecting Your Trade Secrets
While a patent allows you to monopolize your product’s production for up to 20 years, trade secrets remain in effect for as long as you are able to keep them under wraps. While it is always possible to patent an exclusive method or recipe, many choose not to for a simple reason: When the patent application is published or the patent itself expires, the product description enters the public domain. When kept as a trade secret, on the other hand, your idea will remain yours alone for as long as you keep it safely concealed.
The choice is yours to make. Although the trade secret stratagem costs you nothing and never expires, potential dangers abound. When and if someone spills the beans, you will have no way of fighting for your rights.
How Badly Do You Need This Protection?
In the beginning, you might believe that none of your cerebral endeavors will ever require safekeeping. You could quickly change your mind, however, if you suddenly find that someone has appropriated one or more of your valuable concepts. In addition to shielding your ideas right now, the protections can serve you well should you need to sell your business or defend against an outside party’s lawsuit.
If you want to cover all the bases, you can even choose to shield plans that you may or may not ever implement just to keep them out of your competitors’ reach. Exclusive licenses can do the trick in this regard. So can filed and published patent applications even if you let them lapse.
When defending your intellectual property, it’s important to understand just how far your protections will extend. In an ideal world, they would reach around the globe, covering your brand, your products and even your marketing jingles. Unless you are a major worldwide enterprise, however, your advantage will reach no further than the United States, Europe and perhaps a few smaller countries.
Doing it Right
The process of protecting intellectual property is not as simple as it looks. A patent office, for instance, will not grant your application unless the product description meets certain strict requirements. With trademarks and design patents, even larger pitfalls could exist. Applications lacking in proper examination could later face legal challenges.
There is only one good way to protect your intellectual property, and that’s to get the job done right in the first place. At Odgers Law Group, we take pains to ensure that your patents, copyrights and trademarks possess the strength and integrity they need to secure their existence both now and in the days to come. Don’t neglect this obligation. Call Odgers Law Group today.