Many businesses begin with a unique idea that becomes synonymous with their brand, leading to years or even decades of success. In most cases, the creator took steps to protect their intellectual property (IP) long before seeing the dividends.
Still, it’s surprising how many creative individuals or companies neglect to safeguard these assets through trademarks, copyrights and patents. Failing to protect these unique ideas often damages a brand’s reputation and leads directly to significant revenue losses.
Defining the three common types of IP protections
Protecting your IP is crucial so competitors can’t use your idea for their own gain. Here are the basics of the three primary types of protections:
Trademarks are associated with corporate logos and brand names, protecting words and design features associated with a product. Service marks are similar but refer to a service offered by a company instead of a tangible item. However, trademark is often applied in both cases. Trademarks also provide protections against competitors who attempt to confuse consumers with similar design elements.
Copyrights protect original compositions, including art, music, architecture and written content. While the copyright is in effect, the owner has exclusive rights to share, perform, display or license the content. Some exclusions apply to educational, scholarly or news material. How long a copyright lasts depends upon when it was created.
Patents are granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, protecting original inventions. There are three types:
- Utility patent: Covers the creation of a new or improved product, process or machine.
- Design patent: This applies to the unique design of a manufactured item.
- Plant patent: This is related to plant biology, safeguarding a new plant’s unique characteristics from being used, sold or copied by others.
Another essential part of IP protection in California is safeguarding trade secrets, which are confidential processes and practices that provide a competitive edge. Working with attorneys experienced in identifying and protecting intellectual property is crucial to helping your business prosper for years to come.