How to Recognize and Protect Your Company’s IP Before It’s Too Late
For businesses of all sizes and at all stages of growth, protecting their IP assets is extremely important. Not only do these assets have value that can be monetized, but they also add to the overall value of the business, and they help businesses differentiate themselves from their competitors.
Protecting a business’s IP assets starts with understanding what is worth protecting. Then, the business must take appropriate steps to secure protection based on the nature of each individual asset. This article provides a brief overview of the different types of IP assets and the available means of protection.
Identifying and Protecting the 4 Types of IP Assets
There are four primary types of IP assets: (i) patents, (ii) copyrights, (iii) trademarks, and (iv) trade secrets. Businesses need to protect each type in different ways:
Patent protection is available for inventions. There are three types of patents, as outlined by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO):
- Utility Patents – Protection is afforded for “any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof.”
- Design Patents – Protection is afforded for “new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture.”
- Plant Patents – Protection is afforded for “invent[ion] or discover[y] and asexually reproduce[tion of] any distinct and new variety of plant.”
Patents are protected through registration with the USPTO and international registrars. Businesses also can (and should) use carefully-drafted license agreements to protect their patents when authorizing use for manufacturing or other purposes.
Copyrights protect “original works of authorship.” This includes everything from photos, videos, and songs to website content to software code. While copyright protection arises automatically (as long as a work is original and not itself infringing), additional protections can be gained through registration with the U.S. Copyright Office and its international counterparts.
Trademark law protects brand names, logos, and slogans. It also protects trade dress. Once a trademark owner establishes exclusive rights, no competitor can offer competing goods or services under a “confusingly similar” brand. In the United States, geographically-limited trademark protections arise automatically upon use, while brand owners can obtain nationwide protection through registration with the USPTO. Trademark registration is available (and often necessary) in other countries around the world as well.
Trade secret law protects proprietary information. In many cases, proprietary information will not qualify for patent protection because it does not amount to an “invention,” and it will not qualify for copyright protection because it is protected through secrecy rather than creative expression. Trade secrets are not subject to registration; rather, businesses must protect their trade secrets through effective internal controls and appropriate contractual restrictions.
Start Protecting Your Business’s IP Today
If you need to know more about protecting your company’s IP, we encourage you to get in touch. We assist businesses with protecting all types of IP in the U.S. and abroad. To arrange a confidential initial consultation with an IP attorney at GS2Law, please get in touch online today.