Developing a portfolio of intellectual property usually takes years of effort.
Failure to plan for and dedicate resources to develop your intellectual property can be a costly mistake.
As an intellectual property law attorney, we can offer strategic advice in these complex areas.
What Is Intellectual Property?
Intellectual property is a product of human intelligence.
The law protects intellectual property from unauthorized use by others.
It’s crucial to protect your unique ideas from the competition.
Examples of intellectual property include inventions, trademarks, artistic works, literary works, and symbols, names, and images used in business.?
The following four categories comprise the areas of intellectual property.
A patent is an exclusive right granted for the use of inventions and other ideas. When an individual acquires a patent, federal law protects against the use of ideas covered by the patent for 20 years.
Federal law outlines the following five requirements for patentability:
- Patentable subject matter: Under 35 U.S.C. ? 101, any “process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or improvement thereof” includes patentable subject matter.?
- Utility: Utility means the patent is useful.?
- Novelty: Novelty requires that the invention is unknown in the United States or any other country.?
- Nonobviousness: An invention is obvious if it is recombination, alteration, or adjustment of an existing invention that any person knowledgeable about the area could readily recognize.
- Enablement: The patent must give enough specifics about the invention that someone skilled in that area could make and use it.
Distinctive symbols, signs, or phrases identifying specific goods or services are trademarks. A trademark typically represents a company or idea. Trademarks are valuable because they aid customers in identifying and differentiating individual companies and products from others. Federal registration of a trademark protects your names, symbols, and logos. Registration provides you with exclusive legal rights to the use of the trademark. Being the first person to register a trademark protects you from registration of a similar trademark.
Whether you have an established company with an esteemed reputation or are hoping to build up a strong reputation in your industry, a trademark provides an easy way for customers to identify your company.
Trade secrets are not as easily identified compared to trademarkets, copyrights, and patents. A trade secret is private information that possesses high economic value to the company. Manner of business, pricing, methods, customer lists, and supplier lists qualify as trade secrets. For example, a trade secret for a technology company may be a specific algorithm.
To be considered a trade secret, a company must take reasonable efforts to maintain the confidentiality of the secret. Additionally, the secret must have economic value for the company.
Copyrights cover literary works, music, artwork, films, and architectural designs. A copyright is a legal right to use, sell, publish, reproduce, or distribute these types of works. Copyright protection also extends to any reproductions of original works.
There are significant limitations on copyright protections. For example, if you write a book about a new bookkeeping system, the book is protected. However, the copyright does not protect your new system of bookkeeping. You would need a patent for that.
Securing and monetizing copyright involves multiple steps. An intellectual property attorney will work you through the entire process. Registering your copyright maintains its defensibility in infringement actions.
What Are Some Common Examples of Intellectual Property Violations?
Intellectual property violations may be intentional or accidental. These types of violations occur frequently and in a variety of ways.
Patent infringement may occur when someone makes, uses, or sells a patented invention without permission. For example, if you have a patent for a mobile app but another company begins developing the same app without your permission, that would constitute patent infringement.
Using Copyrighted Work Without Permission
Copyright infringement occurs when someone uses your copyright without your permission. For example, infringement includes illegally copying musical recordings or using someone else?s photographs on your website without consent.
If you feel that someone has infringed your copyrighted work, it?s important to act quickly. In some cases, stopping unlawful dissemination of your copyrighted work is more important than recovering money in a lawsuit.
The act of counterfeiting includes the use of the name, logo, or product of another company for profit. Violations occur when others are led to believe the name, logo, or product is the same as that of the original company. For example, it is a trademark violation when someone sells a purse with the logo and design identical to high-end designer Prada.
Misappropriation of Trade Secrets
Misappropriation is the improper use of trade secrets. Violations occur when a trade secret is improperly acquired. Additionally, the disclosure of a trade secret without consent is misappropriation. For example, if an individual learns a competitor’s secret and reveals the secret. Don’t hesitate if you believe your trade secrets were leaked or compromised. Hire an intellectual property attorney to mount a swift response. The value of the trade secret determines appropriate action, which may range from a demand letter to filing a temporary restraining order.
What to Do If Someone Uses Your Intellectual Property Without Permission
Protection of your intellectual property rights demands prompt attention. You can reduce further damage to your company and ideas by contacting an intellectual property attorney.
Patents, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets are complicated areas of law. Individual rights and remedies vary within each area.
Once infringement is discovered, provide the offender with a demand letter. A demand letter asks the person or company to stop using your intellectual property.
If the person or company fails to abide by the terms of the demand letter, you must take further action. Polasek Law Firm can help you defend your intellectual property against infringers.
How to Protect Your Intellectual Property from Infringement and Theft
There are no guarantees against infringement and theft of intellectual property. One of the first steps in protecting your intellectual property is identifying the type of intellectual property and registering it correctly.
You should also have a system in place to monitor for potential infringement and take swift action if infringement occurs. Enforcing your intellectual property rights consistently can help you maintain their strength.
With respect to trade secrets, it is particularly important to guard against theft. Trade secrets are protected by secrecy rather than registration. This means that taking reasonable steps to maintain that secrecy is a vital element of enforcing your intellectual property rights. For example, you can limit the number of people who have access to the secret, enforce secrecy through confidentiality agreements, or keep the secret physically or digitally guarded.
Avoid Infringing on the Intellectual Property Rights of Others
In addition to protecting their own intellectual property, individuals and companies must take care not to infringe on others’ intellectual property rights. It?s important to do your due diligence when deciding upon graphics, slogans, and even crucial product components. Unknowingly infringing upon someone’s intellectual property rights can lead to costly litigation. Likewise, investing heavily in the development of a product for which a patent already exists can result in devastating losses for your company.
There are many ways you and your company can avoid intellectual property violations. For example, you can avoid infringement by
- Creating original graphics, symbols, and content for materials associated with you and your company;
- Obtaining licenses or written consent to use protected material;
- Using contracts to ensure that you own any work created by employees or contractors, such as graphics, content, or websites; and
- Checking the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office database to ensure that any brand, product, logo, or symbol you are using or developing is not already registered.
The consequences of infringing on the intellectual property rights of another can vary greatly. Engaging the expertise and knowledge of an intellectual property attorney protects you and your company from the need to defend yourself in an infringement lawsuit.
Why Should I Hire an Intellectual Property Attorney?
Protecting the valuable intellectual property of your company protects your hard work. Similarly, failure to adhere to others’ intellectual property rights opens your business up to lawsuits and harmful financial consequences. The intellectual property attorneys at The Polasek Law Firm assist clients in all realms of intellectual property law. The Polasek Law Firm provides prompt personalized attention to all clients. This individualized experience and counsel sets The Polasek Law Firm apart from big law firms. Contact us today to learn how The Polasek Law Firm can assist you with your intellectual property law questions.