What Every Business Owner Needs to Know About Intellectual Property

Intellectual Property
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If you or your company has just written a computer program or video game, or if you have come up with a new industrial design, you are undoubtedly wondering how you can go about protecting your work. You should begin by getting a copyright for written work and a trademark for any designs you may have invented. Before you do you will want to know how intellectual property is defined, what documentation you will need and what deadlines you will have to meet.

The Definition of Intellectual Property

Intellectual property is defined as a type of property that includes creations of the human intellect. This type of law was established to encourage people to invent a variety of artistic and functional goods. Because ideas are abstract and an unlimited amount of people can consume them, it makes intellectual property hard to quantify. Hence, it is always best to work with an experienced lawyer.

Copyrights and Trademarks

It is important to know the difference between products that you will need to copyright and those that you will need to trademark. A copyright focuses on written works such as a novel, photograph or a computer program. A trademark is awarded to a corporation to protect such things as logos, words, and designs that are affiliated with that company’s products. Trademarks are important because they protect a business’ ability to distinguish themselves from other businesses of its kind. It is important to remember that your business name is not automatically trademarked when you incorporate. If you want the name to be trademarked, you must apply for the trademark separately.

How to Apply for a Copyright

To get a copyright, simply go to the United States Copyright website and fill out a form. You can mail it in or send it over the internet. If you are protecting digital content, such as a website, blog or computer game, you will find a list of options for the appropriate file type in which to save your work.

How to Apply for a Trademark

To apply for a trademark go to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Website, make sure to use the  Trademark Electronic Search System database. Here you can make sure no one else has your mark. If someone else has trademarked your business name, your application will be rejected even if you were incorporated first.

Sometimes what needs to be trademarked as opposed to copyrighted can be a bit confusing. You might think a saying or a line of dialog would be copyrighted, but it is not always so. Paris Hilton trademarked her favorite compliment, “that’s hot” in the year 2011. She did this to use the phrase for a line of alcoholic beverages. Singer Taylor Swift has trademarked many of her song lyrics and titles. When you trademark a phrase, you must specify what kinds of items are protected by that trademark. The enterprising songstress has protected phrases such as, “party like it’s 1989” from appearing on everything from walking sticks to temporary tattoos unless she gets a piece of the profit.

IP Infringement Law

Intellectual property infringement takes place when there is any breach of intellectual property rights, such as counterfeiting or piracy of a product. It is not as easy to prove IP infringement as you might think. Think of all the times you have walked into a store to see knock off fragrances or imitation designer purses. The laws are very complex, and you will want to have the assistance of a good attorney through the process of trademarking or copyrighting anything for your business.

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