We are often asked do I need a trademark for my slogan? Can I patent my idea? How do I keep others from copying materials that I have written? Well, here’s a primer for what all small business owners should know to protect their valuable intellectual property assets.
by The Trademark Company
updated 06/23/2002 | 3 Min Read
First, you need to know what the various forms of intellectual property are and how they can help you protect what is yours.
Patents protect inventions that are useful, original, and an improvement upon an existing machine or invention. Today they can be used to protect everything from new and unique computer components to specially engineered geniuses of plant species. There is even a statute that allows for the protection of unique manners of transacting business know as a business method patent. So the easiest way of thinking about patents is that they protect inventions.
Trademarks are your brand identifiers. They tell consumers who produced the product (e.g., Coca Cola used for soda) or who is providing the service (e.g., McDonalds for restaurant services). They can include any word, name, symbol, or device, or any combination thereof used, or intended to be used, in commerce to identify and distinguish the goods or services of one manufacturer or seller from goods manufactured or sold by others and to indicate the source of the goods. In short, they’re the way the consumer identifies what they are buying and who is providing the goods or services behind what they purchase.
Copyrights protect original works of artistic expression including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. They include protection for books, articles, music, lyrics, plays, screen plays, scripts, dance routines, works of art, statutes, movies, television broadcasts, albums, CDs, and even components of a web site. A copyright gives the author and/or owner of the work the exclusive right to reproduce the artistic creation.
Protecting Your Patents, Trademarks, and Copyrights
At this point most people ask what do they need to do to protect their patents, trademarks, and copyrights. In general, registration is the best way.
Patents are a creature of statute and must be registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to be protected. When you are ready you can file a full patent application to protect your invention or, for a lower cost and far less complicated, you can file a Provisional Patent Application which will protect your proposed invention for up to a year until you can file the full, more complicated and expensive complete patent filing.
Trademarks generally exist from the moment you start using your trademark in commerce. Registration with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is not required to acquire trademark rights but it is highly recommended to deter others from infringing upon your trademark and quite useful should you ever be required to enforce your rights in the same. Also, to sell on Amazon you may be required to show an official U.S. serial or registration number secured from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Copyright protection exists in a protected work from the moment the work is created. However, in order to enforce a copyright a Copyright Registration from the U.S. Copyright Office must first be attained. They are cost effective and easily obtained when filed for properly.