Intellectual Property (IP) refers to intangible creations by an individual or a business. It covers a vast range of creations, including inventions, literary works, artistic works, name of a business, logo, symbols, images or videos used for commercial purposes, designs, recipes and formulations. IP-intensive industries in America employ more than 45 million people and their worth crossed $6.6 trillion in 2014, according to a report published by the US Patent and Trademark Office.
Although intellectual property is a hugely valuable asset for a business, many organizations underestimate its importance. Most small and medium businesses do nothing to secure it.
Why All the Fuss About IP?
An IP can form an important part of branding and marketing initiatives and help set a company apart from competition. Many don’t know that this asset can be sold or licensed, providing an additional revenue stream to a business. Owning the intellectual property for a product, brand or design helps prevent other businesses from using it to their advantage. IP can also increase the value of an SME for possible investors and raise the worth of the enterprise in case of a sale or merger.
Main Categories of Intellectual Property
A copyright is generally used for protecting artistic works, such as poetry, music, novels and computer software. It can also be used for non-creative aspects of business, like protecting the original content of a company’s website. The symbol © provides cognizance to the world that the content is copyrighted. Under the Copyright Act of 1909, the use of © is mandatory at the time of publication for recovering damages in case of an infringement, according to experts at Praxis Legal Solutions.
A trademark can be a slogan, logo, jingle, sign, pattern, expression or name, which helps identify and distinguish a business from others. Nike’s “Just Do It”, Coca Cola’s “Coke” and McDonald’s golden arches are some examples of trademarks. A trademark not only acts as an identification mark of a business but also helps in communicating with customers. It is an inexpensive method of protection, with the United States Patent and Trademark Office charging only $275 to obtain trademark registrations, according to an article on Entrepreneur.com. With so many benefits, an increasingly number of businesses are using trademarks, with the USPTO receiving 440,768 new trademark applications in 2017, according to an article on Inc.com.
Patents have been around from a long time, with the first patent in the US being issued to Samuel Hopkins on July 31, 1790. A patent is generally granted by the US government for excluding others from making, selling, using or importing an invention to the country. Patents also help in getting higher returns on investments and an opportunity to license or sell the invention. For qualifying for a patent, the invention must be noble and must have a commercial or industrial use. Generally, a patent can protect an invention for a period of 10 years.
Registering your design rights helps in protecting the configuration, structure, and the internal mechanics of your product. Registering your design protects it for a period of 25 years. For a design to be registered it must be new and its construction and mechanics should have an individual character.
In case of any infringement of intellectual property, one can send a cease and desist letter. If this does not solve the problem, the next step involves court proceedings.