How Can I Protect My Intellectual Property?

Trademark, Copyright and Patent Attorney Explains Intellectual Property Rights

In business, your success and livelihood often depends on your intellectual property (IP), which can be the actual goods you sell or the brand name, logo or slogan associated with your company. Your IP establishes brand recognition, customer loyalty and your professional reputation when you start a business. Therefore, to protect your financial future, you should consider securing your intellectual property rights through a patent, copyright or trademark registration. These three types of licenses all offer protection and usage rights to your IP; the right choice, or combination of choices, for your situation depends on the type of property in question.

The process of filing for any of these rights is complex and often requires extensive research and knowledge of intellectual property laws, which vary from state to state. Therefore, if you need to protect your logo, business name or any other type of intellectual property, the attorneys at LAD Law Group today. We can help you establish and enforce your rights to your IP. Whether you need a trademark, copyright or patent attorney, our Chicago law firm can help.

How Do I Register a Trademark?

A trademark is any kind of symbol, design, word or phrase that identifies your business as the source of goods. The same kinds of symbols are “service marks” if your business provides services. Your mark may be your brand name, slogan or logo—anything that distinguishes an item or service as a product of your business. Generally, trademark rights depend on use; you may have a legal right to ownership of your logo or brand name based solely on the fact that you use it for your business. Therefore, trademark registration is not mandatory.

However, taking the time to register a trademark does provide certain advantages. Registration establishes a legal presumption of ownership and exclusive usage rights. This means that if another business tries to use your trademark or a mark similar to yours, it will be much easier to prove your intellectual property rights in court. Furthermore, unlike patents and copyrights, trademark rights do not expire, as long as you continue to use the mark.

To register a trademark, you must submit an application to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). While this process is relatively straightforward, a successful registration requires extensive research. Marks that are similar in appearance, sound or meaning may be easily confused, especially for the businesses in the same industry. Consequently, the USPTO may deny your application if your mark is too similar to an existing trademark. Additionally, your trademark must be unique enough to qualify for legal protections.

A trademark lawyer can complete this necessary research for you and can inform you of state and federal intellectual property laws, ensuring you get approval for a workable logo, slogan or business name. An attorney can also protect your right to a trademarked domain name, which may follow different rules.

When Do I Need to File a Patent?

A patent protects your rights to an invention, which can be a machine or manufactured product, an industrial process or a chemical composition. Patents grant exclusive rights to the owner, meaning that other people or businesses cannot use, make or sell the invention. However, unlike a trademark, a patent only lasts for a certain period of time. The type of patent you receive and the length of time it lasts depends on the invention. The two general patent types are:

  • Design patent. This protects the way an invention looks, not the functional design. This includes ornamentation or shape, as long as the appearance of an item is not only a result of the manufacturing method. As of May 13, 2015, a design patent lasts for 15 years, once issued. Thus, no other person or company can duplicate or imitate the design of your product or property for 15 years. You may file for a design patent for fonts and computer images as well as physical items.
  • Utility patent. This kind of patent protects the way an invention is used. A utility patent lasts 20 years from the date of issuance and can protect manufacturing methods, industrial processes or products. Additionally, you can also patent unique improvements to existing products that affect the item’s function. A utility patent prevents competing companies and individuals from using or producing your invention.

In many cases, you can file both a design and utility patent for the same item, if it is unique in both appearance and function. However, in either case, your product, process or composition must be substantially different from existing products. A patent attorney can take steps to determine whether your invention should qualify for protection, and can guide you through the legal process.

How Does a Copyright Protect My Intellectual Property?

A copyright protects an original creative work, including literary works, poetry, music, art, films and photographs. You may also copyright performances, architecture and computer software. However, only the established form of a work is copyrightable, which means you cannot legally protect ideas, techniques or concepts.

The copyright owner has exclusive rights to the work, including the right to reproduce, display, distribute or perform the material. Additionally, only the author may produce derivative works of copyrighted material. No other person or company may use the work without the owner’s permission. However, certain exceptions do exist that allow fair use of copyrighted works.

The duration of copyright protections depends on multiple factors, including the author. In general, the two possibilities for authorship are:

  • A single author. Copyright protection for works by a single author typically last for the lifetime of the author, plus 70 years.
  • Work for hire or an anonymous author. Legally, a business or company cannot be the “author” of a work. However, a business can still own the copyright to a work. Material created by an employee during the course of his/her employment is therefore copyrightable by the employer, but different rules apply. In these cases, protections last 95 years from publication or 120 years from the creation of the work, whichever is shorter. The same timeframe applies to anonymous or pseudonymous works.

In general, copyright protection exists automatically for authors of original works. However, you must register with the United States Copyright Office if you wish to defend your work against copyright infringement through a lawsuit.

The laws governing copyright protections are complex and defending your copyrighted IP can be difficult. Therefore, whether you need to register your own copyright or have questions about the use of copyrighted material, a business attorney from our law firm can help.

Our Law Firm Can Help With Questions About Intellectual Property Rights

If you have concerns about your right to your business’s intellectual property, the lawyers at LAD Law Group today. We can assist you in registering a trademark or copyright, or in filing for a patent. Additionally, we can defend your intellectual property rights against infringement, if necessary.