You’ve probably heard your grandfather complain that he did not patent the “mobile phone” he invented in 1942. If he had, he’d be a billionaire! Ideas come and go, but those who take the leap and protect those ideas often reap the benefits.
“Intellectual property” (“IP”) is defined as a unique “product of human intellect” protected by law. Intellectual property can be both in physical form, an idea, or even a design. Algorithms, programming techniques, song lyrics, and books are all forms of intellectual property. Federal law protects intellectual property from being used by unauthorized parties. Protecting business’s intellectual property will help the business maintain the value and benefit from their intellectual property. IP law is complex, and you’ll need the assistance of a Mountain View IP attorney from Structure Law Group to protect your rights under federal intellectual property law.
Types of Intellectual Property
Intellectual property generally falls into one of the following four categories:
- Trade Secrets: These are formulas, patterns, programs, devices, and techniques valued because they’re “secrets.” For example, the recipe for Coca-Cola® is a type of trade secret.
- Trademarks: These are certain words, phrases, or pictures, often in combination with a design or logo that distinguish a business or product. Apple’s “Apple” is a trademarked design and the name Coca-Cola® is a registered trademark.
- Copyrights: Works of art in their original forms, whether illustrations, paintings, videos, or writings, may be protected automatically by copyright law. This prevents the unauthorized use and distribution of these artistic items.
- Patents: Certain inventions and innovations may be “patented” under federal law. This prevents others from making, using, importing, or selling the patented item for a certain period of time. Patents allow the original inventor to financially benefit from his or her innovations.
The only type of protection afforded “automatically” is a copyright. Once a work is “fixed,” i.e., the chapter or idea is finalized on some form of medium, it’s protected under copyright law. Certain trade secrets are also afforded protection without federal registration if the company takes the legal steps necessary to protect this information. Notably, however, you should register your copyright with the government so that you can avail yourself of additional statutory protections. Any other type of intellectual property, however, is not subject to automatic protection.
Protecting your Intellectual Property
Patents and Trademarks must be applied for. Your intellectual property attorney must file the correct technical applications to the United States Patent and Trademark Office and wait for approval. Not every application is approved, however. Sometimes an idea is too obvious or has already been patented. Further, a trademarked name or logo may be too close to another registered trademark to allow protection. You should always check with a Mountain View intellectual property attorney before utilizing an untrademarked logo or unpatented idea. You may be subject to fines and litigation even if you didn’t know about the pre-existing intellectual property. Never assume your intellectual property is protected before you’ve spoken with a California IP attorney. Be sure that your employees sign contracts protecting company trademarks and ideas under development and don’t share this information without proper legal protection.
Contact a Mountain View IP Attorney at Structure Law Group, LLP Today
Don’t tell your grandchildren about the idea you should have patented; tell them about the idea you did! To schedule your IP consultation, contact the Mountain View, California business attorneys at Structure Law Group, LLP at 408-441-7500 or online.