Have you noticed that Intellectual Property takes up a much larger portion of a company’s asset than 50 years ago? That’s definitely true! Your inventions, your source code, your brands, and your know-hows have become your most valuable asset.
To start your business, it’s crucial for you to understand how to protect your IPs. This article will help you understand the basic knowledge to file a patent, what creations are copyrightable, and how to obtain and maintain your trademark.
Obtaining Your Patent
Owning a patent is exciting, it means you have the right to exclude others from making, using, selling or importing an invention for a long period of time. There are different categories of patents available under the U.S. patent law: utility patent, design patent, and plant patent. But before you file the patent application, you want to make sure your invention meets USPTO’s patentability requirements. A research and study of the prior art would help you predict whether an examiner will find your invention non-obvious.
Keep in mind don’t sell or offer your products for sale before your application. The “on-sale-bar” doctrine could prevent you getting your patent if you commercially exploit the products to the public. If you like to get a simpler and quicker protection, you could file a provisional patent application which lasts for a year. That will give you more opportunities to conduct research and finish the invention later.
Protect Your Copyright
A copyright is a bundle of exclusive rights granted to authors. If you meet the “originality” and “fixation” requirements, you receive a copyright automatically. “Originality” means the work cannot be a mere mechanical reproduction of previous work, nor the work consists of just a few phrases or words.
“Fixation” means your work must be fixed in a tangible medium of expression, for example, stored on a medium where it can be reproduced or communicated. Although there is no formality like filing a copyright application, it’s required before an author can pursue an infringement lawsuit by the U.S. Copyright Office. Once you submit the application to the United States Copyright Office, the application becomes part of the public record and can be viewed by the public upon request. Your work could fall within the following categories: individual literary work, visual arts work, motion picture, musical work, sound recording, other performing arts work, or single serial issue. You can also register multiple works with one application. The Copyright Office provides two ways for you to file an application: online or by paper.
Obtain Your Trademark
Here are two tips before you start your market your trademark:
- Doing knockout research, which would help you not infringe others’ trademarks.
- Choose a strong trademark. Please refer to prior blogs.
When you put money building your trademark, you are helping the consumers to distinguish your goods or services from others. Thus, you may not like competitors to take advantage of your brand by making likelihood of confusion or dilution.
Under common law, your trademark rights are limited to the areas where you actually use your marks. To benefit from broader protection, you should register your trademark in the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO). Don’t worry too much if you have not used your mark, you could make a “use in commerce” application or “intent to use” application. The latter gives you the opportunity to register your mark if you prove you have the intent to use the mark in commerce. Later on, you need to file a verified statement of use to perfect your registration. USPTO provides constructive notice and use of the trademark which allows you to secure national rights. However, even if you registered your trademark, you should still keep your trademark in commerce.