Protecting Your Intellectual Property
By Charles Hopkins
Published 04/20/2006 | Entrepreneur
If you are a small business owner with an idea, an invention or a new product, you need to decide whether or not to create a proactive intellectual property strategy.
What is Intellectual Property? It is any creation of the mind and includes literary and artistic work, inventions as well as symbols, names and images. It also includes any designs you use in conducting your business.
There are two categories of Intellectual Property. The first, Industrial Property, includes industrial designs (and geographic source designations), inventions (patents) and trademarks.
The types of Trademarks are: Trademark, Service Mark, Collective Mark, Collective Membership Mark, and Certification Mark.
The second category is Copyright which includes literary and artistic works. Copyright protects the authors of novels, poetry, films and plays and composers of musical works. However, copyright also protects artists of paintings or drawings, photographers, even sculptors or architects who have designed specific buildings. Protection of Copyright is also extended to performing artists regarding their performances and producers of television and radio programs.
When Should You Think About Protecting Your IP Rights?
Intellectual Property has become big business -- and protecting yours can add considerable value to your company somewhere down the road.
You should think about applying for the appropriate protections if...
you're even considering going global at some point
if you will be manufacturing your products in another country
if your business name, tagline, logo or other work is a key component of your business, your brand or your operational strategy
if your product is something that is easily pirated and could be manufactured in countries that are known for pirating
Many business owners think they should wait until their business is established and they know that it's going to succeed before deciding to go ahead with IP protection. However, according to the top IP attorneys, that's a mistake that can be more costly in the long run. It's easier and cheaper to protect your rights in the beginning than it is to be involved in a lengthy and expensive court case, trying to reclaim what is yours, or defend against an infringement claim.
Another reason many business owners wait is because international IP laws are often unclear, and the laws themselves change often. And there are differences in trademark systems in the U.S. and other countries.
In the U.S., the system is based on use, not registration, but many other countries have registration-based systems.
However, thanks to the Madrid Protocol, the process of protecting trademarks has been streamlined and can save you up to 65% of the filing costs.
Before the Madrid Protocol, you were required to file separate applications for each country. Now, you can file for many with one application.
Another problem faced by entrepreneurs is that there is a time limit -- 12 months in fact, to file for international IP rights after applying for a trademark or patent in the U.S.
If you want to protect your Intellectual Property, and increase the long-term value of your business, consult a reputable IP attorney now. Don't wait until it's too late.