Your intellectual property is the one of your company’s greatest sources of value. When manufacturing new products, we at Blacksmith know how essential it is to understand what your rights are and how to protect that value.
Whether you’re designing a logo or manufacturing a product, you’ll want to ensure that your Intellectual Property (IP) is protected from unlawful use by other individuals and companies. That protection comes in the form of a Copyright, Trademark, or Patent. Each of these forms of protection cover different types of intellectual property. Copyrights protect original works of authorship. Trademarks protect identifying words, phrases, symbols, or designs. Patents protect inventions and discoveries.
What are original works of authorship?
These include literary, dramatic, musical, architectural, cartographic, choreographic, pantomimic, pictorial, graphic, sculptural, and audiovisual creations.
Who owns the copyright?
The person who created the work. However, if the work was created by an employee or an independent contractor, then the copyright may belong to the company that employed them. Original copyright owners may also sell the copyright, releasing ownership to the buyer.
Do I have to register my work with the U.S. Copyright Office to be protected?
No. Copyright protection starts the moment that the work is created. Registration makes your ownership of the work a public record and is necessary if you ever choose to sue for infringement.
How long does copyright protection last?
Works created after January 1, 1978 are protected by copyright until 70 years after the death of the creator.
- Get ownership contracts in place before the author starts working.
- Mark work with “ã Year – Owning Entity LLC” as soon as the work is created.
- Register the work if it is valuable in and of itself.
Picking your trademark:
- Aim for fanciful, suggestive, and arbitrary marks.
- Avoid generic, merely descriptive, and familiar marks.
What can be protected as a trademark?
Any word, symbol, name, design, or combination of these that is used to identify a company and their unique products for the purpose of commerce.
Who owns the trademark?
The individual, company, or legal entity who controls the nature and quality of the product.
Do I have to register my trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trade Office to be protected?
No, but it is extremely beneficial. Registering your trademark grants you nation-wide protection, leverages the USPTO in policing your mark, and facilitates interaction with internet marketplaces (like Amazon).
How long does trademark protection last?
10 years, with a 10-year renewal period.
- File for federal registration of the word mark once you’ve committed
- Scale up filings for other aspects of the mark (depending on market reception)
Successful innovators get copied. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to out-innovate a copier, and copying will kill the profitability of your invention. A patent is often the only way to stop others from copying your product.
What can be protected by a patent?
Inventions that have a useful purpose, unique subject matter, are novel, and non-obvious.
Who owns the patent/patent application?
The original inventor, unless otherwise specified.
Do I have to patent my invention with the USPTO to be protected?
In order for your invention to be protected from copiers, you must file for a patent. If you’ve created something valuable, you should file for a patent. Remember that a patent does not create value, it protects it.
How long does patent protection last?
Design patents grant 14 years of protection and utility patents grant 20 years.
The Catch 22
You can’t know for certain that your invention has value until the marketplace tells you. However, if you wait until for marketplace confirmation before applying, you could be legally barred from obtaining a patent.
During the early stages of innovation, focus on preserving patent rights and keeping cost on patent protection low. Then, when the market response dictates and your resources grow, scale up expenditures on patent applications and focus on perfecting your patent rights.
- Get your ownership contracts in place before the inventor starts working.
- File your patent application prior to offer for sale, public use, and public disclosure of any kind.
- Scale up patent filings for other aspects of your product (depending on market reception).
Ignorance is not bliss—if you fail to protect your IP from infringement, you will lose significant amounts of time and money. To avoid infringement, you should always maintain a working knowledge of IP law. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the products and players in your market. Seek out professional advice and follow it.
Dealing with Infringers
It’s critical to be proactive when it comes to protecting your IP. From the very beginning, put the world on notice of your rights. Remember to always get signed contracts whenever possible. It is also smart to budget early for enforcement expenses and keep a continuing patent application alive.
At Blacksmith, we understand how valuable your intellectual property is to your business. We want you to take the necessary steps to protect yourself so that we can work together to ensure that your manufacturing process is smooth and successful.
Information on IP Provided by Warren M. Pate, Registered Patent Attorney
To speak with an attorney about getting legal protection for your intellectual property, please visit:
Blacksmith International is a global supply chain management company. Contact us here to get your product made right today!