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Trademarks, Copyrights and Patents

This is just a quick tidbit on the complex world of protecting intellectual property. For more info check out the US Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) site at bottom of page.

Starting a business may include the need to register a trademark or copyright. Not necessarily right away, but eventually you may want to protect certain ideas or symbols that represent your business's identity and image. Some trademarks are worth more than others. It has been cited that the trademark for Coca-Cola is worth over a billion dollars! Your trademark may not have that kind of value right now, but you still need to protect yourself.

And then there are patents...
There are two kinds of patents, a design patent or a utility patent.

The requirements for obtaining a patent are:

  • Only the idea, or formula for an invention can be patented.
  • The invention cannot have been patented anywhere else in the world.
  • The invention has to have a purpose.
  • The invention can't just replicate something already invented.
  • It must be new and unique to what already exists.

Obtaining a patent can be very expensive and time consuming. It can take many years, and up to thousands of dollars after the lawyer is paid. Generally a lawyer that specializes in patents must file the papers and help in drafting the application.

Copyrights are more common than patents, and definitely more accessible. Just about every company has information that needs to be copyrighted. A copyright gives the owner of the work the right to make copies of the work and revise the work. Some things that are often copyrighted are: books, art, material, jewelry, movies, software, and articles. When you write, or create work that is able to be copyrighted it is automatically protected. To acquire even more protection you may file a copyright registration form with the Copyright Office. If you have someone other than an employee create work for your business, for example a logo, you probably want to have the creator sign a work for hire document including the transfer of copyright.



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