The Importance of Intellectual Property Protection for Startups

These days, people are connected more than ever. Technology is advancing, and this might put your startup at risk of having its intellectual property compromised. It is crucial to ensure that your intellectual assets are secure. An intellectual property protection attorney in Arizona can walk you through the process.

Defining Intellectual Property (IP)

If a creation comes from a person’s mind, it is considered their intellectual property. Their creativity, thoughts, ideas, and experiences were specifically used in their creation, so it belongs to them. Intellectual property includes the following:

  • Art
  • Designs and symbols
  • Inventions
  • Literary work
  • Names and images used in their business

If you have intellectual property that is entwined or integral to your startup business, it is in your company’s best interest to protect it. An Arizona intellectual property lawyer can discuss with you which of the four types of protections would be appropriate.

The Four Types of Intellectual Property Protection

There are four types of intellectual property that the federal government protects. There are times when more than one of these will apply to a particular piece of intellectual property. Your IP attorney can advise you about the specific protections you should seek.

1. Copyright Protection

To ensure your intellectual property qualifies for copyright protection, each stage of the creation must be documented. Copyright protection applies to exact or very close to exact copies. Creators have sole rights to their creations if they do not deliberately hand their creations off to another person or entity.

An exception may be if the person who created the intellectual property works as an artist for a company, meaning their creations belong to the company they were creating them for.

If the intellectual property can be reproduced or transferred, copyright laws are the way that particular types of IP can be protected. The U.S. Copyright Office provides evidence that the IP is original to the creator who registered it. While this may be optimal, copyright law does not require warnings or written notices.

The best way to strengthen a copyright holder’s case that their IP belongs to them is to register it within three months of its publishing date. The creator can expect to be awarded a lifetime copyright plus 70 years.

2. Trademark Protection

Trademarks might be signs, symbols, designs, or expressions that distinguish their products or services. It makes their brand unique and keeps it from being mixed up with other brands. People, companies, organizations, and other legal entities may apply for trademarks. Often, companies register their logos and use them as brand logos.

Some examples of trademarks that you are surely familiar with are seen on cars, like the VW emblem on a Volkswagen, the bullseye on the Target signs, fliers, or website, or the Apple on the back of your iPhone. These companies registered their trademarks with the federal government so that their signs and symbols strictly belong to them and are not infringed upon by others.

You are not required to have your trademark approved to utilize it in your brand, and by using it repeatedly and over the geographic range of several states, your design elements might receive limited protection. However, in order to fight and win a trademark infringement case in a federal court, it is in your best interest to have the trademark approved by the federal government.

3. Patent Protection

The patent protects inventions. Intellectual property has to meet the following standards for a patent to apply:

  • Original concepts can receive patents.
  • The invention being patented must be considered useful.
  • To receive a patent, the invention cannot be obvious.

If you are granted a patent, you hold the exclusive rights to your concept for twenty years. During this time, you can manufacture the invention, or you may allow another person or entity to purchase your idea. For twenty years, you have sole rights to the intellectual property before it becomes part of the public domain.

When a patent infringement case comes before the court, the person or business doing the infringing has to prove that the intellectual property should not have been awarded a patent, to begin with.

There are three types of patents. They are listed below:

  • Utility patents protect the process of manufacturing or operating the idea associated with the intellectual property
  • Design patents offer protection for the look of the product but not its utility.
  • Plant patents cover varieties of plants that have been invented without coming from seed.

In the case of patent law, a provisional patent protects the utility, design, or plant for a year. This provisional patent could accelerate the process involved in receiving a review of the product by the patent board. An Arizona patent law attorney can be an asset to making this process go smoothly.

4. Protecting Trade Secrets

There’s no way to register a trade secret, but intellectual property protection might still be available. A trade secret includes procedural systems and formulas that offer a competitive advantage. Trade secrets cannot be readily available or previously discovered.

For a trade secret to be protected, the company that claims ownership of it has to use security systems to monitor them, and the company has to pursue legal action if they realize its trade secrets are being used without them permitting it. Safeguarding trade secrets might include the following:

  • Confidentiality agreements
  • Password protections
  • Physical and electronic security
  • The restriction of access to information

If you are made aware that your trade secret has been used without your permission, you have three years to file suit.

Contact Us if Your Intellectual Property Has Been Compromised

As a startup owner, you want to ensure that your intellectual property is protected from the beginning. To protect your idea, contact the Law Offices of William D. Black. We will help you secure your intellectual property so that your business’s success remains uncompromised.