An Overview of Intellectual Property Rights

Protecting your intellectual property (IP) is one of the most important things you can do as a business owner. One of the most obvious reasons is to prevent lost revenue as the direct result of others using your IP. According to the current United States Trade Representative, “Chinese theft of American IP currently costs between $225 billion and $600 billion annually.”

Additionally, there are harder-to-measure costs associated with IP theft, including brand degradation. For instance, Birkenstock withdrew their products from Amazon last year because counterfeits of their products were being sold on the e-commerce platform at prices far below MSRP. Customers were buying fake Birkenstocks unknowingly and were dissatisfied with the quality of shoe they were delivered. Birkenstock not only didn’t receive the money the counterfeiters made off their IP, but their 240-year-old company’s brand was being damaged. The bottom line for large and small businesses alike are hurt by IP infringement.

What is Intellectual Property?

Intellectual property rights are defined as the creative rights of a person, company, or other organization. They include the protection of copyrights, patents, trademarks, and trade secrets. Intellectual property includes protecting the creations of the mind — inventions, artistry, symbols, images, names, and a variety of other materials and images. Everyone who creates something of value has the right to protect it. To protect what is important to you, take some time to educate yourself on the following fundamentals.

Copyrights protect literary, dramatic, musical, and other artistic works. This includes everything from poetry to movies to architecture. But copyrights don’t protect ideas, methods of operation, or facts. Copyrights are enacted the moment the creative work is produced and don’t require registration. Although, your work may not be protected everywhere. The U.S. has a mutual honoring of copyright laws with several countries, but not all.

Trademarks include phrases, logos, symbols, or even simply words that represent a company’s brand or products. A trademark allows a company to set itself apart from others and prevents unfair competition. Trademarks must be registered and last for 10 years, but can be renewed after this period.

Trade secrets can include patterns, devices, formulas, etc. A company must prove that the secret grants them an advantage over competitors, it adds to the company’s value, and that they’ve taken precautions to keep the secret, well, a secret. Consider KFC or Coca-Cola, neither would be selling a distinguishable product without trade secret protections.

Patents protect technology. They give the owner the ability to exclude others from creating, distributing, and making money off their invention. Although, the owner of a patent can give other permission to benefit from their technology with a patent license agreement. Patent laws and copyright laws differ in that even if the same invention was created independently by someone else, it is still infringing on the patent. Whereas, copyright laws only protect “copying.” Also, a patent is only honored for a specific period of time, usually 20 years.

Working with a firm like SLA International that specializes in intellectual property protection has a variety of benefits, but perhaps the most important benefit is saving you time and money in the long haul. Inventors and creators that seek professional intellectual property protection services have the ability to avoid intellectual property infringement before it gets out of hand.

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