Any property that is made through intellectual efforts is intellectual property. Creative expressions, inventions and even company logos fall in this category. And, just as your intellectual property is subject to your control, it is also at risk of infringement by others. There are a number of easy ways to protect intellectual property and here are a few examples:
Many familiar with the concept of copyright or copyright protection, but not many people understand what it entails. Copyright is a form of protection provided for “original works of authorship” including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works, both published and unpublished. This means that expressive works of writers, composers, authors, photgrpahers, and other creative artists work can be protected. Copyright protection is ownership protection. You can create copyright protection in various ways, but one of the most effective is registering your “original work” with your countries copyright office. In the United States, the office is a affiliated with the Library of Congress..
Trademark, Service Marks and Trade Secrets
Trademarks and service marks are those words, names, symbols, or other devices (specifically from designs) that distinguish the sources of goods and services. Trade secrets are those special formulas, processes, instruments or even patterns in which a company uses to make their unique products. With trademark, service mark, and trade secret protection, an owner is making sure that others don’t make or sell similar goods. Think Coke, Pepsi, KFC and Starbucks. Trademark and service marks offer protection against confusion in the marketplace. And, just like patents, trademarks are registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Patents protect the property rights of inventors. There are design patents. There are plant patents. There are also utility patents. Issued by the Department of Commerce’s Division called that United States Patent and Trademark Office, patents are complicated and detailed applications which require submission of illustrations, data, and explanations explaining the nature of your invention. In the United States, a patent’s term is 20 years from the date the application is filed and only limits the actions of potential infringers within the United States, its territories and possessions.
Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDA)
Ideas are not intellectual property, but plans, books, screenplays, inventions, artwork, processes and patterns are. Often inventors, creators, artisans, and designers want to market their wares. The best way to make sure other people, companies or corporations do not steal your creations, you should have them sign non-disclosure agreements. These agreements do not bind you to contract with a party, but does prevent them from sharing or spreading your information with others. It operates similar to a confidentiality agreement.
You may have created a product and know that manufacturers are looking for new goods to market and sell. In this situation, a license for the product may be in order. A licensing agreement is a contractual arrangement that a product creator enters into with a manufacturer, corporation or individual. In the licensing agreement, you and the other party outline the terms for which they can create, sell, market and distribute your original creation. Some terms can include residuals, royalties or flat fees. In these agreements, you can set a term for the agreement to expire and even state whether the manufacturer will have an exclusive right to manufacturer your creation.
Other General Considerations
As a creator, inventor or artisan, it is important to understand that infringement happens. And the best way to protect oneself and one’s property is to be proactive and to keep meticulous records. In keeping good records, maintain files on your creations, which include dates and copies of related communications, any certificates (copyright, patent, trademark, etc.), any contracts, notes, and even e-mails.
Protecting your intellectual property does not have to be complicated. There are a number of easy ways to shield your creations from misuse and/or infringement. Taking these steps, helps creative minds maintain control and the fruitful enjoyment from their intellectual labors.
For guidance and general references regarding intellectual property protection, check out the following links: