Protecting intellectual property helps ensure the business owner maintains the rights to a unique idea, good, or service. Without this protection, a competitor may steal a popular product, or an inventor could lose credit for their product. Sometimes, creators need extra legal help when protecting their intellectual property. An intellectual property lawyer like those at Ritter Spencer can help investors avoid confusion when navigating intellectual property protection. Before legally documenting intellectual property or hiring a lawyer, it is good to understand what category it falls under and the extent of its protection.
What is Intellectual Property?
Intellectual property is generally a creation of the mind. It can be an invention, a brand, a literary work, a song, and more. Federal registration of IP ensures certain protections. The creator has a right to their idea for a certain time, depending on the form of IP. Intellectual property is protected to encourage the creation of ideas that become goods and services.
What are the Four Main Types of Intellectual Property?
The four most common types of intellectual property are copyright, trademark, patent, and trade secrets:
The U.S. Copyright Act protects authors, including multiple media types such as books, architectural designs, movies, software, etc. Any tangible medium of expression may be protected by copyright, and, in some cases, the author may also retain rights to derivative works. Registration for copyright is voluntary, but it is necessary to sue for infringement in federal court.
A trademark is any word, phrase, symbol, or design that distinguishes goods or services. It identifies the source of the goods or services, and provides legal protection against counterfeiting and fraud. Trademarks are granted to prohibit consumer confusion in the relevant field.
A patent protects an invention, which includes almost anything that is a new product or service that offers a solution. It grants exclusive rights to the inventor for their process, design, methods, or invention. Patents grant the right to exclude others from the underlying subject matter of the patent.
4: Trade Secrets
Trade secrets are protected property rights on confidential information that is valuable and only known by a limited number of parties. A formula vital to a company’s success and unique enough not to be easily replicated is an example of a trade secret. For example, the recipe for Coca-Cola is an incredibly valuable trade secret.
What if Someone Tries to Steal Intellectual Property?
Protecting intellectual property helps safeguard against infringement, but it is not fail-proof. An intellectual property lawyer can assist you in pursuing infringement or other causes of actions against bad actors that attempt to appropriate your IP.
A cease and desist demand letter to the infringer is often the first avenue to pursue. It should include information about the work, the infringement type, and expected action. It might be time to threaten a lawsuit if something else is needed. Potential consequences for the offender include criminal fines, imprisonment, seizure of the stolen property, civil charges, or suspension or loss of an operating license.
When is it Time to Hire an Intellectual Property Lawyer?
An intellectual property lawyer can help you understand what to protect, how to do it, and how to maintain it. The attorneys at Ritter Spencer are here for any copyright or trademark issues where you need assistance registering or protecting your intellectual property. Contact us today or give us a call at 214.295.5070.