Many of the world’s largest and most successful companies recognize their most important assets to be nonphysical intellectual property, such as their brand name and logo. It is because these intangible assets are their foundation of market share, competitive edge, and profitability.
Your company name, recipes and designs are valuable and need protection too. Read on to learn how you can safeguard these business assets legally.
Business value of intellectual property
Business experts have stated that intellectual property can be up to 80% of the value of the business.
Types of intellectual property protection
In America, both federal and state laws protect intellectual property, such as company names, writing, photography, and designs. This branch of law is called intellectual property law, which includes copyright, trademark, and patent law. Each situation and type of property is protected by a different set of rules.
- Works of creativity, such as literature, music, and painting, are protected by copyright law.
- Business assets such as company names, logos, brand, trade secrets, publicity and privacy rights are covered in trademark law.
- Inventions, innovations in manufacturing and design are part of patent law.
Works of art, such as painting, architecture, films, software, photos, plays, dance, songs, and music are protected by federal copyright law. There are specific minimum requirements that these works must meet to qualify for copyright protection.
However, it does not include publication, thus unpublished books and dances not perform, publicly can still be protected by copyright. The length of protection varies depending upon the date of creation.
Federal and state trademark law is for protection of company names, brands, logos, slogans and other identifying items which distinguish your services and products from your competitors within your marketplace.
Trademark protection has different degrees dependent upon factors such as the commercial use of the trademark, service or product type and the geographic area of documented trademark use.
Your sensitive, and valuable, business information is considered a trade secret. Trade secrets include confidential planning of new products, recipes for branded food items and specialized manufacturing processes. Protection for trade secrets depends upon the advantage this information gives your company over your competitors and how secret you have this information over time.
Keeping trade secrets, confidential is vital to legal protection. This includes having employees and vendors enter into non disclosure agreements and to take measures to keep this information confidential.
The US Patent and Trademark office is the official patents grantor for protecting inventions, and product designs, that are considered useful, original and a beneficial improvement upon an existing process or machinery. Protection is obtained for an electronic component, product development, and hybrid living plants.
In business, most protections are offered through either a utility or design patent. Utility patents protect the “usefulness” for which the invention provides, while design patents safeguard the visual look and form of the invention.
How to protect your business assets legally
Now that you know which type of intellectual property protection you need, whether copyright, trademark or patent, you want to know how to defend your rights. If another company copies your patented design, without your permission that is called infringement.
While the law states that the moment you create a work of art, you are copyrighted, and the minute you start using your business name in commerce your also trademarked. However, without formally registering your copyright and trademark, you are in great danger of having no official start date. Without this critical time, registration is complicated to prove your ownership in a court of law against any other infringement.
Patents must be registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to receive full protection.
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About the Author:
Marsha Kelly sold her first business for more than a million dollars. She has shared hard-won experiences as a successful serial entrepreneur on her Best4Businesses blog http://best4businesses.com. Marsha also regularly posts business tips, ideas, and suggestions as well as product reviews for business readers. As a serial entrepreneur who has done “time” in corporate America, Marsha has learned what products and services really work well in business today. You can learn from her experiences from shopping the internet for tools, supplies, and information to build your businesses and improve lives financially.