What is Intellectual Property?
Intellectual property deals with ownership of certain ideas, inventions, trade secrets, patents, copyrights, trade dress, service marks, trade marks, or trade names, and the legal or illegal use of this property. The four main types of intellectual property are:
A trademark can be a logo, name, symbol, design, or device used to distinguish a product or service of one business from that of another. Example: Nike’s swoosh. Ownership of a trademark is created not by registration, but by use in commerce. Generally, registration of a trademark is not required. However, registration with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has certain advantages. Protection of a registered trademark lasts for ten years after registration, and is renewable.
A patent is the right to exclude others from making, using, selling, or recording an invention or discovery, including new and improved products and processes. Patents can be registered in foreign countries, last for twenty (20) years, and are renewable. But, if the patent expires, exclusive rights to use, sell, or import the invention or discovery is lost. Unlike trademarks, patent rights do not exist unless and until the patent is registered.
Trade secrets (covered by state rather than federal laws) include formulas, patterns, compilations, programs, devices, methods, techniques, or processes, which has some economic value because of its not generally known or readily discoverable by competitors. The owner must also use reasonable efforts to maintain the secrecy of the trade secrets. Trade secrets cover a much broader range of marketable ideas than patents, and they avoid the expensive patent registration process. Unlike patents, a valid trade secret lasts as long as you use reasonable efforts to keep it secret. Examples of a trade secret include Coca Cola’s formula for its soft drink, customer lists and files, software source code, strategic business plans, annual operating plans, marketing plans, machine designs, customer information, pricing lists, bid information, profit margins, etc. Reasonable methods of secrecy may include computer passwords, locked file drawers, confidentiality agreements, etc.
A copyright protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, television shows, and architecture. Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed. Like a trademark, a copyright is created when the work of authorship is created. Unlike a trademark, in order to file a lawsuit for infringement of a copyright, the copyright must first be registered.
Do I Need an Intellectual Property Attorney?
Idaho Intellectual property attorneys cover a broad area of legal issues involved in contracts, patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, trade dress, agreements, and other related issues. There are many pitfalls that a qualified intellectual property attorney can help you avoid, and many benefits a Idaho intellectual property attorney can help you obtain. If you are involved in any of the above intellectual property issues, or even if you are wondering whether any of your ideas, works, business names, designs, or logos, or other information, is or could become qualified for legal protection, you should consult with a qualified THW Law intellectual property attorney.