It all looks good. You have secured your company name and logo, have created a nice catchphrase, and launched a beautiful website to sell your wares. The thought then runs through your mind; what if someone else takes my idea? Welcome to the world of patents, copyrights and trademarks, among others. Let’s take a quick look at the ways you can protect yourself.
Copyright protects creators of original works of authorship, such as literary, musical, artistic, dramatic, and other certain intellectual property. Songs, writings, paintings, photography are among the works eligible for copyright protection. While you don’t have to register a copyright because it applies the moment your work is created, registration is required if you ever establish a lawsuit for copyright infringement. Many also choose to register their works because they want the facts of their copyright on the public record and have a certificate of registration.
A trademark (TM) is a word, phrase, symbol or design that identifies the source of the goods of one party and distinguishes them from others. You might have also heard of a service mark (SM), which is essentially the same as a trademark, but it denotes the source of a service rather than goods. You don’t need to file any special paperwork or notify any organization in order to start using a trademark symbol. The registered mark ® comes into play if you’ve filed an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and it’s been officially registered.
According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, a patent is an intellectual property right granted to an inventor that prevents others from making, using, or selling the invention throughout the U.S. or importing the invention into the U.S. Patents last for a limited time and come in exchange for publically disclosing the invention when the patent is granted. There are three types of patents: utility patents, which cover processes, machines, manufactured items, or composition of matter; design patents, which cover new, original, and ornamental design of a manufactured item; and plant patents, which cover any distinct and new variety of plant.
Now you know the specifics of what you can do to protect yourself. You can do most of this without enlisting the expense of a lawyer. Registering a trademark for a company name is pretty straightforward. Many businesses can file an application online in about an hour. The simplest way to register is on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s website, US Patent Office. The online process costs around $300, and in typical government fashion, a response will be yours in about 6 months.
It is often difficult for new business owners to conceptualize the legal ramifications of the processes mentioned here. However, as we have learned, the basics of protecting yourself in business are not that hard. You don’t have to register a trademark if you don’t want to. If you do decide to register, it can be done online quickly and inexpensively. You can also use the trademark symbol without registering it, to prove that you do utilize the good or service. Follow these basic steps at the beginning to avoid potential headaches down the road.