Why Business Owners Need to Protect Their Intellectual Property
While many small and medium-sized business owners understand the need to protect their company’s assets, they are often primarily concerned about their tangible assets. However, it is important that business owners not overlook their business’s intangible assets, including their intellectual property.
What Is Intellectual Property?
Intellectual property is a property that consists of your business’s intangible creations.This may include your:
You and your business have invested time, money, and creativity into these aspects of your business, and they are part of your company’s value.
Failing to create a comprehensive intellectual property strategy for your business could result in your losing the ability to capitalize on your intellectual property and could even make you vulnerable to lawsuits from other businesses with competing claims.
It is critical that you consult with an experienced intellectual property attorney to protect your company from such risks. Part of your intellectual property strategy should include registering your intellectual property.There are four main categories of intellectual property, including:
- Trade secrets
In this blog, we will discuss the first two, copyrights and trademarks:
Copyrights govern the right to reproduce – or copy – a piece of creative work. The owner of copyright, therefore, owns the right to reproduce the work at issue. Under copyright law, the owner is typically the creator of that original work – or their heirs.
According to the U.S. Copyright Office, copyright in the United States protects the owner’s rights for 70 years after the death of the creator, after which it reverts to the public domain. If, however, the original creator is a corporate entity, copyright protection lasts for 95 years from the date of publication or 120 years, whichever expires first.
Copyright can only be granted for creative work that takes tangible form. In other words, a tangible product must have required significant intangible intellectual and creative effort as part of its creation to be protected by copyright. Examples of material that may be protected by copyright include:
- Graphic design
- Musical lyrics and compositions
- Website content
Copyright is granted automatically to anyone who creates what is called an Original Work of Authorship. However, a creator can also voluntarily register their creation with the U.S. Copyright Office. The enforceability of a copyright is often dependent on registering your copyright, so it is highly advisable to do so.
According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, a legal trademark can be “any word, phrase, symbol, design, or a combination of these things that identifies your goods or services.” In other words, a trademark is a recognizable sign – broadly defined – that distinguishes your product or service from others. That sign could be an image, word, phrase, sound, or even smell that recalls your specific brand to other businesses, legal entities, and consumers.
A service mark is similar to a trademark, but specifically distinguishes a service rather than a product. However, a trademark is commonly used interchangeably to refer to both.
Trademarks can include:
- Logos and symbols
- Slogans and taglines
- Brand and product names
- Brand colors
Unlike copyrights, trademarks do not expire. However, they must be in regular use for the owner of the trademark to benefit from trademark protections. Registered trademarks are delineated by the symbol â. Unregistered trademarks can be identified by the symbol ä.
Registering your trademark carries significant benefits, namely by more robustly protecting your brand against infringement by other businesses. By using a trademark, you can also help to prevent potential confusion amongst consumers between your brand and others of its kind.
How a Trademark and Copyright Lawyer Can Help You
It is critical that you protect the intellectual property of your business by registering your trademarks and copyrights. Properly registering your intellectual property will help prevent your competitors from stealing your intellectual property and will also help to strengthen your ability to enforce your trademarks and copyrights if they are threatened. An experienced intellectual property attorney can help you properly register your trademarks and copyrights.
At Scaringi Law, we will take the time to understand the unique needs and goals of your business so that we can help you create a thorough plan to robustly protect your business’s intellectual property. And because our firm seeks to provide comprehensive legal services to businesses, our knowledgeable business lawyers can help to protect and defend your interests across a wide variety of issues.
If you are concerned about safeguarding your company’s copyrights and/or trademarks, contact us online or call us at (717) 775-7195 to schedule a consultation.