A patent protects inventions through federal law. Inventions are your creative ideas for new products (manufactured items), machines, processes, methods, compositions of matter, ornamentation of products, or new plants. An improvement to an existing product can also be patented.
Utility patents protect most of these. To be patentable, your invention must be useful, novel, and not obvious. Design patents protect device ornamentation. Plant patents protect new varieties of plants.
Utility Patents give you a monopoly (no one else can make, use, sell, offer for sale, or import your invention) for twenty years from the filing date.
Design Patents give you a monopoly for fourteen years from the date of issue and prevent others from making the patented device with its ornamentation. (As an example, a table is a useful device. If you could get a utility patent on a table with a flat surface and four legs, you could prevent anyone from making such a table. Surface pattern, you could avoid others of make boards with that shape or surface pattern).
Plant Patents have a term of twenty years from the date of filing the patent application.
Infringement of your patent to potentially get triple the amount allows damages plus attorneys’ fees.
Trademarks (or service marks for services) protect names, logos, slogans, and the like through federal and state law. Your name, logo or slogan identifies you to your potential customers as the source of the goods and services you offer and therefore constitutes a trademark.
There are federal and state trademarks. There are also common law trademarks that are not registered at the federal or state level. Federal trademark applications can be filed before even using the trademark name, logo, or slogan to reserve your trademark.
In addition to common law trademarks, federal and state trademarks must be renewed periodically. Federal trademarks must be renewed every ten years. If you stop using the trademark, you lose your rights. Otherwise, as long as you use and / or renew the brand continuously, you will continue to have rights forever.
Infringement of your trademark can potentially get you tripled damages and attorneys’ fees.
Copyright protects your creative artistic expression, but only once it is established in tangible form. For example, you create and sing a song. There is no copyright unless the song is recorded or written, because there is no tangible representation of its artistic expression. However, once you write, record, photograph, draw, or create a tangible record of your artistic expression, you are automatically copyrighted. In other words, you are the only one who has the right to make or sell copies.
Ideas cannot be copyrighted. They can only be patented. Examples of copyrighted materials are written words, such as in books, magazines, poems, songs; written music; music performances; paintings and drawings; photographs, videos, architectural plans, website content and designs, and computer software.
Copyright has a duration of 70 years plus the life of the creator (or the last to die for several authors) for new works under current law. If the work is commissioned, the term is the shorter of 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation.
Federal law gives you the right to enforce your copyright, but only after it is registered. There is the possibility of obtaining legal damages of up to $ 150,000.00, plus the possibility of being awarded attorney’s fees. Therefore, it is very important to register your copyright as soon as possible.
Finally, trade secret protection is another means of protecting ideas. However, the keyword here is secret. Let someone who does not need to know the secret and is no longer protected. Trade secrets are best suited to keep secret formulas or processes protected.
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C2006, Williamson Copyright Act, LLC; All rights reserved throughout the world.
This article, and / or reading it, will not be construed as an offer, content or receipt of legal advice, and will not create any attorney-client relationship or privilege. If you are considering protecting your intellectual property, you should consult with an attorney of your choice.