Intellectual property, while intangible, is still property and your intellectual property rights should be protected. The modern business world has seen a surge in intellectual property creation, particularly since the advent of the Internet. However, the internet makes it even easier to steal your ideas and your work. An intellectual property attorney trained to recover patent, trademark, copyright and trade secret rights can help you protect your intellectual property.
Types of intellectual property include patents, trademarks and trade dress, copyright and trade secrets.
A patent is granted by the government and allows for a (usually) 20-year monopoly on an invention that was previously “not in the public domain”. Patents are intended to encourage investment in research and development. If you develop a new useful method of doing something, a machine, a manufacture, or even an improvement on something already existing, you can patent your invention and forbid others to “make, use, offer for sale, or sell . ..or “import” the invention into the US Your right to patent your invention is a constitutional right (Article I, Section 8).
Patents are divided into three groups: Design, Utility and Plant. Designs protect innovations in the appearance (but not structure or function) of an item. Utility models apply to entirely new inventions, including machines, industrial processes, compositions of matter and articles of manufacture. Plant patents cover innovations in plant life, such as B. new plant species that arise from the propagation of cuttings and grafts of existing plants.
Patent attorneys will research existing patents for you to determine whether a similar product has already been patented or whether you should apply for a patent for your invention. A patent attorney will also tell you if your idea is not patentable because it is a law of nature, a physical phenomenon, or an abstraction. You should find a specialized patent attorney or intellectual property attorney because in order to pursue a client’s patent application, he or she must be registered with the US Patent Office. A patent attorney must also have passed a science and technical exam to better understand and serve clients.
Trademarks are given for words, names, symbols, or devices that separate and differentiate businesses and services. These include arbitrary names such as Kodak, suggestive names such as Caterpillar (tractors), descriptive names that indicate the company’s products or services, and generic names that are descriptive. Common and some descriptive names cannot be trademarked, so a trademark or intellectual property attorney should be consulted to see if your name qualifies for trademark rights.
You can also submit an Intent to Use application to reserve a name that will later be registered as a trademark. (This is especially important when expanding business to the Internet.)
Trademark attorneys can also be consulted to ensure your new business is not using a registered trademark. The consequences of using a registered trademark, while you may have poured money and publicity into promoting your business, include a claim for infringement.
Copyright protects the individual expression of an idea, but not the idea itself (see patent). Copyrights serve scientific progress. You can copyright your writing, performance (music, dance), art, sound and compilations. You cannot copyright any idea or non-assembled fact, word or phrase (although these may be registered as trademarks, so consult an intellectual property attorney). If you come up with an idea or invention while working for a company, it may be patented or trademarked by the company you work for, but copyrighted work belongs to you, the employee, not the company you work for employed. Loopholes exist, however, and an intellectual property attorney will both help you through the process of copyrighting your print and save you the hassle and time of overcoming obstacles.
If you are a business, you need an intellectual property attorney who specializes in copyright because, especially with internet businesses, you need to ensure that your website design is contractually copyrighted to your business and not owned by the employee or independent contractor who created it. This also applies to software.
It is important to protect your company’s trade secrets so they are not misused. While patents have a limited term of protection and are released after 20 years, trade secrets are always protected. To be considered a trade secret, it must have independent commercial value to the company. For example, the recipe for Coca-Cola is a trade secret, not a patent, and thus will never be disclosed because without the recipe being kept secret, the company would not be able to compete in offering a single product.