Business Guide to Intellectual Property
"Intellectual property" is a phrase that refers to anything original that you can create, whether it's tangible or intangible. The point of classifying a concept as intellectual property is for creators and inventors to be able to receive the fame and financial compensation that they deserve for designing something that others will use and profit from. Registering intellectual property is in the public interest as well: Many inventions make our lives easier, and letting people protect what they create helps to motivate them to make new things. There are many types of intellectual property protections, such as patents, copyrights, industrial design rights, and trademarks.
Patents are the best example of a tradeoff between the inventor's financial interest and the public good. When you invent something and receive a patent, it means that you have exclusive rights to your invention for a limited period of time. During the term of the patent, the patent holder is the only individual who can replicate their invention or allow someone else to do so, meaning that they're the only one who can profit from their idea. The standard duration for a patent is 20 years. After the patent expires, members of the public can use the design to make the same invention without the consent of the original inventor. The three categories of patents are utility patents, design patents, and plant patents. Most patents are utility patents, which are issued for inventions and processes.
Copyright protects tangible literary, poetic, musical, or theatrical works. Only the copyright holder can reproduce or authorize a reproduction of the copyrighted work. Copyrights last not only for a person's lifetime but for a period of 70 years after their death. There are many laws that prevent plagiarism and copyright infringement, which occurs when someone creates an unauthorized copy of copyrighted work. After a copyright expires, the work enters into the public domain and anyone can reproduce it.
Industrial Design Rights
Industrial design rights protect two-dimensional and three-dimensional designs that have a novel aesthetic purpose. Regardless of whether the object itself has value, the industrial design rights recognize the ornamental and artistic value intrinsic to the design. For example, the iconic design of old Coca-Cola bottles is protected by industrial design rights; they didn't invent the glass bottle, but they did create a unique design for one.
Trademarks are symbols, designs, or words that let you set your products apart from similar products sold, marketed, or manufactured by another business. Trademark protection usually lasts for only ten years, but you can renew it before it expires. Making the decision to renew a trademark requires a cost-benefit analysis as to whether the trademark and its use are more valuable than the cost to register it. Usually, a trademark protects a design or a phrase, but people have also trademarked signature scents, unique packaging, or specific color combinations.
Plant Variety Rights
Plant variety rights are a special kind of intellectual property rights for plant breeders. New plants registered under PVRs can be bred and reproduced by the public, but the first breeder has the right to collect royalties for the sale of the plants.
Trade dress refers to the packaging and marketing of products. Sometimes, a business will market its products in a distinctive fashion that separates them from all others. The business has the choice to protect its intellectual property through a trademark or a trade dress.
Some products are superior to others in part because they come from certain geographic regions that have established a reputation for producing a specific high-quality product. A geographic indication is a protected use of the name of a location that tells buyers that the product has the desired qualities specific to that particular place.
Trade secrets are any form of information that derives value from its secrecy, has been reasonably protected and kept confidential by the holder of the trade secret, and is not publicly accessible or commonly known. Famous trade secrets include the KFC fried chicken recipe and the formula for Coca-Cola.
- Types of Intellectual Property Rights: Knowing the different types of intellectual property is useful for figuring out the right type of protection to obtain for your intellectual property.
- The World Intellectual Property Organization: The WIPO is a specialized United Nations agency that organizes and sustains an international system for intellectual property protection.
- Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works: The Berne Convention is an international treaty designed to protect copyrightable art and literature.
- Patent Process Overview: Patent applications in the U.S. must be submitted to the U.S. Patent Office.
- Plant Patents: Plant patents are granted to people who create a new plant through asexual reproduction. Plant patents aren't granted for plants discovered in the wild.
- Design Patents: Patent offices grant design patents for an object's unique outward appearance or ornamentation.
- Patentability Requirements: A patentable invention is useful, non-obvious, and statutory and has never been created before.
- What You and Your Business Need to Know About Copyright Infringement: Copyright infringement is when someone exploits or profits from a copyrighted work without the permission of the copyright's holder.
- What Is Derivative Work? Derivative work is a new work that uses significant elements of a previously copyrighted work. Only the new additions to the work are copyrightable.
- How to Apply for a Copyright: The U.S. Copyright Office handles applications to copyright artistic and literary works.
- What Happens to Your Copyrights After You Die? When the copyright holder dies, the copyright is transferred to the decedent's estate.
- Protecting and Enforcing Design Rights: Like patent applications, applications for industrial design rights are filed through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
- Registering an Industrial Design: An industrial design must be original to be protected.
- How Do I Register a Trademark? Registering a trademark is important because registration gives you the right to file a court case if someone uses your trademark without authorization.
- Trademark Strength: Generic words are the weakest types of trademarks.
- Getting an International Trademark: The Madrid Convention created a system that allows applicants to register a trademark just once and receive international protection in member states.
- Plant Variety Rights: New types of plants given plant variety rights can be used as the basis for further plant breeding, but the original breeder can collect royalties when their plant is produced and sold.
- Plant Variety Protection: Plant variety rights can apply to plants that are bred through sexual reproduction, as opposed to plant patents, which are only for asexually reproduced plants.
- Requirements for ObtainingPlant Variety Rights: The three characteristics of a plant that qualifies to be protected by plant variety rights are uniformity, distinctness, and stability.
- Trade Dress Explained: Trade dress is all about protecting a product's unique commercial identity.
- Lanham Act: The Lanham Act was passed in 1946 to protect trademarks.
- Geographical Indications: Some place names are protected in relation to products, meaning that only products made in that place can use the place's name. One of the most well-known examples is "champagne," which can only be used to label sparkling wines made in the Champagne region of France.
- Protecting Trade Secrets: Laws protect secrets that are valuable to a company, such as the precise recipe for a popular food or beverage.
- Uniform Trade Secrets Act: The Uniform Trade Secrets Act governs the protection of trade secrets in the United States.
- What Is a Trade Secret? Trade secrets are coveted because the secrecy of the information gives it more commercial value.
- Filing for a Patent vs. Keeping Your Invention a Trade Secret: Trade secrets aren't registered to protect their confidentiality. Patents are registered, but the protection is temporary.
- Trade Secrets and Confidentiality: Legal protection exists for trade secrets, but many businesses also use non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) to protect their trade secrets.