Whether you are starting a business or already a business owner in the US, it is necessary to know what are the rights you have over intellectual property (IP) and how to protect and enforce those rights in case of any inconvenience.
If you don’t know these rights how can you enforce them so knowing them is a must for any business in order to survive in the long run.
1. Intellectual Property Rights
Intellectual property (IP) is basically a term referring to a brand, invention, design or other kind of creation, which a person or business has legal rights over.
The main focus of modern intellectual property law is to create a balance so that they are secure and strong enough to promote the creation of intellectual goods but not so strong that they interfere with the use of goods.
Intellectual Property is considered a business asset and in this modern era, they are owned by the majority of the businesses. There are many types of intellectual property, and some countries recognize these as rights more than others.
The most well-known types are copyrights, patents, trademarks and trade secrets. These types are explained below in full detail to enlighten their importance.
Copyright refers to the exclusive legal right of the owner’s intellectual property. In simple words, it is the right to copy. Their work may be in a literary, artistic, educational, or musical form.
This simply means that the creator of products and the people who they provide with the authorization is the only one to have the right to replicate their work.
By this, they protect their work from being copied. This creates a sense of comfort in the original creators and motivates them to produce more work hence benefiting society.
However, if you are employing other companies or freelancers for doing your work then you have to make a contract emphasizing the IP rights and who owns it, as sometime such freelancers may own the copyright for the commissioned work.
In the United States, creative work is automatically protected by copyright as long as it is both original and fixed in a tangible form. Copyright only protects the tangible form of your creative work but not the idea itself.
For example, if you make an advertisement then your actual content is protected by copyright but you cannot stop others from utilizing the same idea to create their own advertisement.
The USA is a signatory to the Berne Convention on copyright. Under this, each member state recognizes the copyright of authors from other member states in the same way as the copyright of its own nationals.
Patents is a type of intellectual property which creates a right in favor of the owner to restrict others from making, using, selling and importing an invention for a limited period of years.
It is basically a government grant which is only enforceable when the owner publishes a public disclosure of the invention. It is designed to encourage inventors to disclose their new technology to the world by offering the incentive of a limited-time monopoly on the technology.
It sometimes creates a competitive edge when used in industries such as pharmaceutical which can be really beneficial for the survival of such industries.
In US, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) issues three kinds of patents and those are utility patent, plant patent and design patent.
Utility patent which is for technological advances and innovations lasts a minimum of 20 years from the date of application. Design patent which is for new and original designs for items lasts for a 14-year time period.
The third type of patent which is the Plant patent is for the invention or discovery of new and unique plant varieties that have been asexually reproduced lasts for a 20 years term.
A trademark is a word, phrase, or logo that identifies and differentiate the source of goods and services from other goods and services in any market.
It protects the brand and commercial identity of any particular business by restricting others to use the name or logo that is identical to an already existing trademark.
The main purpose of such is to help consumers in differentiating between brands and avoid any confusion which results in future dissatisfaction.
In US the trademark law is mainly governed by the Lanham Act. Trademarks registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) are given a benefit of higher degree of protection in federal courts than unregistered trademarks.
Both the registered and unregistered trademarks are provided with some degree of federal protection under the Lanham Act.
As registration is not necessary there is no limit to the duration of a trade mark in the US. As long as there is continued use of the trade mark the ownership of the trade mark right is maintained.
5. Trade Secrets
Another type of intellectual property includes trade secrets. It is classified as confidential information which if leaked in the market can harm the business in the long run.
In the United States, trade secrets are not protected by law in the same manner as patents or trademarks. It is protected only when the owner has taken reasonable measures to protect the information as a secret to maintain a competitive edge against its rival companies.
In order to protect your Intellectual property you have to make efforts to monitor the market for any unauthorized use of your IP and if you think that someone is using your IP without your permission then legal action can be taken against them to prevent and discourage such use in the future.
To make your business successful in the US and internationally you must protect your assets with some form of IP rights protection.
Because it is really difficult to survive in such an advanced era by being naïve enough to leave your intellectual properties unprotected. It is most advisable to take an expert advice as there are a number of professional organizations that can offer you the needed help and support.