Web Design and SEO Blog

Jan201911

Intellectual Property: Is Your Business Properly Protected?

by Mira Brody in Security, Tools & Tips

Copyrights, patents and trademarks — what are they and how to use them to legally secure your business assets.

There are different options when it comes to legally protecting the property related to your business, depending on what you are trying to protect. Logos, taglines/slogans, and some ideas require their own type of protection and it is important to understand what distinguishes the three main main intellectual property laws for: copyright, patent and trademark.

Copyright: Writings and other creative work
Copyright law provides ownership over the things you create, whether written (books, code, blog posts), visual, musical, or performative. If you are in the publishing or photography industry, or your company has any published writing, you should pay close attention to the rules of copyright. A copyright grants you the following rights, including:
  • The right to reproduce your photograph or writings,
  • to prepare derivative work,
  • to distribute copies,
  • to perform the work,
  • and to display the work publicly.
A copyright is obtained automatically when the product is “fixed in a tangible form” without the need for registration or other formalities. This means that the item in question must already exist — you have taken the photograph in question, as opposed to simply planning to take a photo in the future. The only time you need legal documentation of your copyright is if you are distributing your photography and want to dictate how people can use it, such as a Creative Commons license. In the United States, copyright lasts the lifetime of the owner, plus 70 years, and thereafter works enter the public domain and can be used freely.

Patent: Intellectual property
A patent is used to legally protect intellectual property, providing the patent owner with the right to decide how the invention can be used and distributed. A registered patent protects inventions, business names and taglines from being stolen and resold for up to 20 years in the United States.

Unlike a copyright, a patent must be legally obtained. A few requirements are:
  • Your invention must be carefully documented — diagram every detail, document how it works and, if possible, build a prototype.
  • It cannot have already been for sale before you apply for a patent.
  • There can not already be a similar product of the same name on the market.
  • You must have outlined a business plan for distributing the product.
This documentation then needs to be on file with the US Patent and Trademark Office in order to complete your patent registry. A patent can cost from $900 for a do-it-yourself application to between $5,000 and $10,000 with the help of patent lawyers.

Trademark: Products and services
A trademark is a recognizable sign, design, or expression which uniquely identifies the products or services of a particular source. The first use of trademarks was in 1266 in England under the reign of Henry III, which required all bakers to use a distinctive mark for the bread they sold. Typical things to protect under a trademark are brand names, slogans, and logos.

Registering your brand name, slogan, logo or service is not mandatory and protection can last forever so long as you continue to use the mark consistently. However, federal registration of a trademark with the USPTO has its advantages, including a claim of ownership notice to the public and the exclusive right to use the mark in connection with your business. Registering a trademark can range from $225 to $400 in addition to recurring fees that are around $125/year.

How are you protected?
Properly protecting your business assets is an important part of running a business and keeping it safe from deliberate or accidental plagiarism of your hard work. All three protections covered in this article hold up in a court of law— although we hope it never comes to that, it is always good to cover yourself beforehand.