Intellectual property is a crucial element in the long-term success of any business venture. Failure to protect your intellectual property can result in competitors stealing your ideas, your branding, your image, and ultimately the good will you’ve created with happy or loyal customers.
Think about a few of your favorite brands or products and how you are easily able to identify them and will often go out of your way or pay more to purchase them again. Now imagine if there were no intellectual property protections in place and anyone could create and sell cereal in a yellow box called Cheerios, no matter the quality of the product inside, or if anyone could build a car and slap the Ferrari name on it.
Protecting your intellectual property is undeniably important if you’ve already launched your business or are just getting started. It goes beyond physical products to service-based products as well, which rely on a recognizable name and reputation to garner and keep the loyalty of their customers or clients.
But what is considered intellectual property, exactly, and what forms exist to protect it?
Intellectual property amounts to the ownership of ideas and differs from the tangible assets associated with your business, and which exist to protect these ideas or concepts from unfair competition, copycats, or outright theft.
The three primary ways to protect intellectual property in the United States are patents, trademarks, and copyrights. Each of these methods has its own limits or constraints and there is no one size fits all solution to protect all the intellectual property of your business. Indeed, most businesses may require multiple forms of protection.
Patents are exclusive rights granted for an invention which applies to using, making, or selling that specific invention within the United States. These are products or processes that provide a new way of doing something or offers up a new technical solution to a problem.
An invention must be of practical use and also employ some new element or novelty from an existing design or invention in order to be eligible for patent protection.
Trademarks exist to protect words or symbols that help to identify and distinguish it from other products on the marketplace. This gets to the very core identity of many businesses and protects elements like the brand name or product name. Think about the Cheerios example mentioned earlier or Apple and the iPhone, both of which are names protected by trademark. The key element of a strong trademark is that the name should be distinctive or unique. The same applies to any symbols or logos, like the NBC peacock or the famous Nike swoosh.
Copyrights cover things like literary works, films, music, photographs, artistic works, and architectural designs. These laws help protect the works of authors, musicians, artists, and other creatives to hold the exclusive rights to use or authorize others to use them under agreed upon terms. This is what prevents others from profiting from or capitalizing on popular songs by using them without authorization in a TV commercial, for instance.
Those are but a few examples of what is commonly considered intellectual property in the United States and what methods exist to protect their owners or creators. There are also “trade secrets” like the Coca-Cola recipe which cannot be protected by the above methods but rather must be protected by guarding the secret and using non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) so that it is not divulged by those with access.
If you need help determining which aspects of your business need protection or how to go about doing so, then you need the help of an experienced intellectual property attorney like those at Fears Nachawati.
The team of intellectual property lawyers at Fears Nachawati can explain every aspect of the process and help identify which aspects of your business or idea are most in need of protection. A concrete plan of action to protect your intellectual property can be one of the best contributors to the success of your business.
Don’t wait to legally protect your intellectual property. Schedule a free case evaluation with a member of our team by calling at (866) 705-7584, or by visiting the offices of Fears Nachawati located throughout the great state of Texas, including in Houston, Dallas, Austin, Fort Worth, and San Antonio.