The intangible nature of intellectual property makes it difficult to protect. You can’t just park a security guard next to your intellectual property to keep people from stealing it. In fact, intellectual property (“IP”) has been defined as “… a collection of ideas and concepts…” Though harder to protect than your company’s computer equipment or warehouses, business owners and innovators still have ways to safeguard their IP assets from theft or misuse.
A copyright protects original works of authorship, including novels, songs, computer software, and architecture. It does not, however, protect “facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation.”
For example, “The sky is blue” cannot be copyrighted because it’s not an original statement and is a common fact. But a song written about the sky being blue could be copyrighted. If you consider “The sky is blue” to be data, it likewise cannot be given copyright protection. However, a book written about the blue nature of the sky could be.
If your business has work that you feel may be eligible for copyright protection, by all means consult with an attorney sooner rather than later.
Applying for a patent is another way to protect IP. If granted by the U. S. Patent and Trademark Office, a patent gives a person or legal entity exclusive rights to the concept or invention, to the exclusion of others who might want to use it.
There are four types of patents and all must pass tests before a patent will be granted. In general, though, a process, method, or invention must:
A trademark is any symbol, word or combination that represents or identifies a product. Service marks are similar, but distinguish a service that one company offers from services provided by another company.
Trademarks can be registered for words, name, symbols, and logos, though this list is not exhaustive. Example of trademarks include:
- A company name, like Coca-Cola or Mercedes.
- A symbol, like the Nike swoosh or McDonald’s golden arches.
- A catchphrase, like “I’m Lovin’ It” or “Let’s Get Ready to Rumble.”
Even colors and shapes may be trademarked if they distinguish one company’s product from another.
Concerned About Intellectual Property Issues?
After putting time and energy into creating works of art, inventing innovative expressions, or developing designs that promote your business, you’ll want to protect your hard work from misuse or theft.
At Virtus Law, our experienced attorneys regularly advise clients on how to protect their own business interests. Please contact us by calling 612.888.1000 or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.