Protecting Your Big Ideas: Which Intellectual Property Right Type Do I Need? - Hackstaff & Snow, LLC

Protecting Your Big Ideas: Which Intellectual Property Right Type Do I Need?

Photo of people at a white board discussing business ideasYou started the new year with a big idea for your company; maybe you even have more than one. Youre excited to hit the ground running with it. Still, before you do, its time to consider what types of protections your intellectual property might require. Not securing the appropriate protections jeopardizes your big ideas value and impact on your business. You could risk giving another company a competitive edge over yours. 

What is Intellectual Property (IP)? Any work or idea created by a human or a computer is identified as IP. Soft intellectual property is a term frequently used for any IP that isnt a patent. Soft IP includes: 

Copyrights 

Copyrights are used to protect fixed creative works, including articles, books, pictures, plays, music, and computer software and programs. Other IP that can be protected under copyright laws include: 

  • Dramatic works and the accompanying words 
  • Graphics 
  • Sculptural works 
  • Motion pictures 
  • Audiovisual works 
  • Sound recordings 
  • Musical works, including music accompanying dramatic readings and plays 
  • Recordings on cassettes, tapes, and CDs 

Copyright law prevents the copying of your works, in whole or in part, by your competitors. Keep in mind that your business will own the copyrights for employee-created works. However, you wont own the copyright in works generated by consultants and contractors unless you include copyright assignment in your contractor and consulting written legal agreements. 

You dont need to take other actions to protect your copyrights. Its crucial to note that including a copyright notice on your copyrightable works and registering valuable copyrights sooner rather than later with the U.S. Copyright Office will provide you with essential rights you wont otherwise receive. One of them being the right to sue for infringement and to recover statutory damages and legal fees. 

Trademarks 

Trademarks are used to protect slogans, logos, and brand names. Trademark rights safeguard distinctive words, names, symbols, sounds, and colors used to distinguish a business’s services and products from another. In the United States, ownership of a trademark depends on who uses the trademark first. Although it provides vital benefitsregistration with the USPTO is not required. 

Trade Secrets 

The Uniform Trade Secrets Act protects trade secrets. They are defined as confidential business information that can generate a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Trade secrets can include formulas, methods, or techniques used to produce a product.  

Inventions that don’t meet the requirements for patent protection can be protected with trade secret law. Suppose you want to protect specific soft IP for more than the 20-year period given for patents. In that case, trade secret protection might be ideal. For example, the recipe for Coca-Cola has been protected trade secret for more than 100 years. 

Common IP that falls under the trade secret category is client lists. Trade secrets are set apart because they gain their protection by how a company treats them. A company that doesnt take steps to keep their trade secrets secret likely wont find a judge who is on their side wanting to protect it under trade secret laws. 

Your trade secret protection program must keep your filing and computer systems secure. You need to initiate reasonable steps, including NDAs (non-disclosure agreements), to ensure that you restrict employees, contractors‘, and other third parties use and disclosure of your trade secrets. 

Confidential Information 

Sometimes companies need to prevent the disclosure of private information in the absence of consent. Still, the information doesnt fall into one of the preceding categories. Assets that are harder to categorize, for instance, general knowledge about a product or confidential information held by a business, fall into this type of IP. To keep this type of IP protected, its best to discuss it with an attorney who is well-versed in IP laws and protections.  

How a Business Lawyer Can Help with Your IP Rights 

With many different types of soft IP and various kinds of protection that apply to each, it can be challenging to ensure your IP has the necessary protectionYou can take time out of your already busy schedule to learn more about IP and the steps you need to take to protect it. However, youre a business owner who should be focusing on building and caring for your business. You shouldnt have to take time out of your schedule to study law or accounting.  

Recognizing how valuable their big ideas can be and admitting their limitations of time and knowledge, many businesses seek the skill and expertise of business lawyers. A business lawyer can examine your IPaccount for it, properly categorize it, and take any necessary steps, such as registering or licensing, to protect it legally 

Call the IP attorneys at Hackstaff & Snow today to ensure your big ideas have the right protection this year: (303) 534-4317.