Intellectual Property and Technology in the United States
Keeping your million-dollar ideas safe and secure is vital in today’s fast-paced world. There are countless scammers and tricksters out there looking to steal your next big idea. Unfortunately, good ideas don’t come with valid protective measures, making it difficult to keep your ground-breaking concepts safe from outside sources. Luckily, intellectual property lawyers can help you find the best way to protect your ideas and prevent them from falling into the wrong hands.
What Is Intellectual Property?
Intellectual properties, better known as IPs, are legally protected products of the mind that prevent outside parties from unauthorized use. However, ideas need to go through an extensive process to classify as intellectual property. A person must move forward with their idea and memorialize or create something from it to qualify it as an IP. After that, they must protect it using one of the following:
- Non-disclosure agreement (NDA)
Although filing one of the protective measures listed above isn’t always necessary to obtain common law rights, professionals highly advise doing so to prevent future issues and keep them secure.
Intellectual properties require specific protections. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, so it’s crucial to understand which intellectual property falls under what protective measure.
Copyright protects creators and their works from theft, unlawful distribution, and more. Books, movies, songs, musicals, art, and other creative works qualify for copyright protection. It prevents outside parties from stealing a creative piece and profiting off it as if it was their own. It gives the creators sole ownership over their works, allowing them to control every aspect without outside interference.
If the creator finds someone selling or using their work without permission, they can sue the outside party for copyright infringement. However, copyright infringement cases have a reputation for being complex, making them difficult to win. Fair use and teaching exemptions make it difficult for creators to prove willful copyright infringement. Most people advise talking to a copyright lawyer before taking legal action against a potential copyright infringer.
Patents work similarly to copyright but protect processes, manufacturing designs, compositions of matter, and varieties of a specific object like plants. The patent holder restricts unaffiliated parties from using, selling, or making the patented product in the United States. A patent also prohibits importing copies or recreations of the patented item into the United States. Much like copyright, patent holders can sue outside parties if they commit patent infringement.
Getting a patent on a product isn’t always easy. It’s a long and strenuous process that often takes months, if not years, to complete. However, people can apply for a provisional patent that protects their IP while the patent process takes place. A provisional patent only protects your IP for a limited time but provides adequate protection while you wait for your official IP patent.
In the unfortunate case someone infringes on your patented item, the patent holder can take legal action against the outside party through the patent litigation process. Patent litigation occurs when the patent holder sues someone for patent infringement. It’s often a lengthy process that requires extensive evidence to carry out successfully. However, it is necessary to protect your patented item from becoming stolen, copied, or manufactured without your permission. Patent litigation can also be extremely profitable if your case is successful.
Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs)
Sometimes people want to show off their new product to manufacturers, designers, and other outside parties to see if they will sell it in their stores or online marketplaces. In these cases, the product owner provides a non-disclosure agreement to prevent outside parties from running off with their idea or invention.
Non-disclosure agreements, or NDAs for short, prohibit non-affiliated groups from talking about, copying, or selling a product after learning about it. The product owner must get the outside party to sign the NDA before conducting their presentation.
It’s important to note that non-disclosure agreements only work when the outside party signs them. They do not protect the product if it somehow makes its way to the outside world on its own. If you plan on drawing up a non-disclosure agreement, make sure to only share your invention or idea with parties who sign it.
Trademarks differ from other IP protections since they are primarily associated with companies. They protect slogans, phrases, designs, and symbols companies use to sell products. Many companies use trademarks to differentiate themselves from their rivals and prevent outside sources from stealing their goods, logos, and ideas.
For example, trademarking a company emblem prevents other companies from copying it and using it as their own. Companies often trademark the following.
- Brand and product names
- Logos and emblems
- Phrases and sayings
- Colors associated with brands like Target red or Home Depot orange
- Specific product shapes
- Distinctive scents and fragrances
There are two types of common trademark indications in the United States. Unregistered trademarks usually have a small TM symbol next to the name, product, or slogan while registered trademarks sport a circled capital R. Registered trademarks are more secure and must receive validation through the United States Patent and Trademark Office. They also make it easier to prove your case in court if necessary.
Although trademarks are rarely associated with individuals, it’s always a good idea to familiarize yourself with every protective measure available to ensure you have the proper IP protection. If you own a small company that makes unique items, you may want to consider getting a trademark.
The Best Ways to Protect Your IPs and Keep Them Safe from Outside Parties
Understanding all the ins and outs of IP protection takes an incredible amount of effort. Many people don’t have the time to comprehend the laws and regulations surrounding IPs and need professional help. One of the best ways to ensure your idea or invention remains protected is to talk to an experienced IP lawyer. They can guide you through the complicated copyright, patent, NDA, and trademark process while helping you with IP litigation if needed. They can also direct you to specific patent and trademark offices to ensure you receive the IP protection you need.
IP lawyers do more than just help you with protection and litigation. They can aid in developing strategies to help your IP reach its full potential. IP lawyers help you manage your portfolio and provide counseling for people looking for guidance. Everything remains confidential, ensuring your IPs stay safe and secure from outside parties.
One of the best aspects of hiring an IP lawyer is skipping most of the confusing paperwork. IP lawyers make filling out copyright, patent, NDA, and trademark paperwork a breeze by breaking everything down into the simplest terms so you can understand the process. If they run into an issue outside of their wheelhouse, they will point you to the nearest qualified specialists who are best suited for your needs.
Protecting your IP is more important than ever. If you need to copyright, patent, trademark, or take any other protective measures to secure your IPs, hiring an intellectual property lawyer will make the process much easier.
Don’t let your IPs fall into the wrong hands. Contact an IP lawyer today and get the right protection for your IPs.