How Do You Protect Your Intellectual Property?
If you’ve invested the time and energy developing a new business idea or product, you’ve also likely spent some time grappling with whether or not you should protect your intellectual property in some way. The vast majority of small business owners and entrepreneurs don’t have a solid grasp of how, why, and when they should be protecting their intellectual property.
When to Seek Protection
As soon as you start taking steps in order to implement a product idea or a business, whether it is by incorporating, obtaining state licenses, or initiating production of a product, you should identify which aspects of your business may be eligible for protection via trademark, copyright, patent, or trade secret. Each of these protections require different procedures in order to avoid copycats and to protect you from unfair competition.
First and foremost, you should perform a thorough search of the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office’s (USPTO) searchable database and the U.S. Copyright Office’s searchable database for any potential conflicts that may already be established and have exclusive rights relating to brand names of products which you hope to develop.
Do not forget to search for potential conflicts within the State of Texas through the Secretary of State’s SOSDirect online database, as well.
Different Types of Protection
Copyrights are sought by authors, artists, and other creative professionals, and are designed to protect the tangible form of an idea. Most often this is used to protect original works such as photographs, motion pictures, sound recordings, architectural works, sculptures, etc.
Trademarks protect a name, word, slogan, design, symbol or image which identifies a business or brand and helps to distinguish it from others within the same field or industry.
Inventors and designers file for patents which aim to protect inventions that have new or improved functions, whether it is for machines, processes, chemical compositions, or so forth. This protection grants the owner exclusive rights for 20 years.
A trade secret is a formula, device, process, or business information that gives companies a competitive advantage. This can include soft drink formulas, computer algorithms, or customer lists. However, you cannot obtain protection by registering a trade secret, unlike the other ways to protect your intellectual property. Instead, trade secrets must be protected by taking steps to control the use of sensitive information. This is achieved by nondisclosure agreements, post-employment restrictive covenants, and other legal measures.
Protect Your Intellectual Property
The fact of the matter is that protecting intellectual property is a very complex process that changes or evolves throughout each step. In some cases, one product can fall under multiple categories, such as computer software: The code used to create the software may be protected by copyright, while the functional expression of an idea may be protected by a patent, and ultimately the name of the software or company may be protected by a trademark.
Therefore, it is crucial that you consult an experienced Houston trademark attorney in order to best protect your intellectual property. The team of intellectual property lawyers at Fears Nachawati can explain every aspect of the process and help identify which aspects of your business or idea are most in need of protection. A concrete plan of action to protect your intellectual property can be one of the best contributors to the ultimate success of your business.
Don’t wait to legally protect your intellectual property. Schedule a free case evaluation with a member of our team by calling (866) 705-7584 or by visiting the offices of Fears Nachawati located throughout the great state of Texas, including in Houston, Dallas, Austin, Fort Worth, and San Antonio.