Intellectual property refers to your right to exclusively own, and benefit from, your ideas. At law, there are three general areas of protection, depending on the type of idea:
Intellectual property law is complicated, and it is important to protect your rights before and after disclosure of your idea. An Intellectual Property Attorney can be very helpful. View qualified Intellectual Property Law Firms, Copyright Law Firms, Patent Law Firms and Trademark Infringement Law Firms in your area to find Intellectual Property Lawyers to get help with this process.
A patent gives an inventor exclusive rights to benefit from his invention for a certain period of time after its disclosure. To obtain a patent, generally your invention must be inventive, new and have an industrial application or other general use. In the United States, there are several steps to obtaining patent protection. Generally, they are:
- Research to ensure no one else has already invented it. Many recommend searching on http://www.google.com/patents.
- Review patent guidelines and requirements at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) at http://www.uspto.gov/.
- Apply for a provisional patent at http://www.uspto.gov/web/forms/index.html#patent.
- File a non-provisional application or a grantable petition within 12 months.
A trademark is the unique symbol or sign used typically by a business that identifies it and its offerings (products or services), and particularly, how those are different from the offerings of other businesses. The trade mark is frequently a logo, design, word, image, or phrase, and is designated with one of the following:
- ® is a registered trademark.
- ™ is an unregistered trademark, and used to identify and market goods.
- SM is an unregistered service mark, and used to identify and market services.
As the names of some of the symbols indicate, you may create and rely on a trademark simply by using it in business (publicly), although you may also register it with the USPTO at http://www.uspto.gov/main/trademarks.htm.
Although many think copyright is only given to written works, you may copyright any expression that is unique and set in a fixed medium. Examples of copy written works include:
- Writings (including novels, poems and short stories)
- Visual arts (including movies, paintings, photographs and sculptures)
- Audio arts (including recordings, compositions and broadcasts)
Typically, in order to get an enforceable copyright, you should register your work with the United States Copyright Office at http://www.copyright.gov/. Even with a registered copyright, your right to benefit from the work is not completely exclusive. In fact, there are several fair uses that others may make of your work, if their use meets the legal requirements. Some examples of uses that have been deemed fair include:
- Parody (a work that ridicules another work)
- Partial copying for use in schools
- News reporting
If you have a copyright, patent or trademark that someone used without permission that was not a fair use, you can sue him/her for damages. This is a complex process that requires specialized knowledge, so it is important to obtain the services of an Intellectual Property Attorney to help you enforce your rights.
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