BEFORE YOU CREATE: Understanding intellectual property

Picture this. You’ve come up with the most amazing business idea of all time. You’ve purchased a website domain, created social media accounts and you’re all ready to launch and then you realize someone already has your business name. Or even worse, the company you hope to launch already exists. In today’s environment that encourages entrepreneurship, it’s easy to just launch a business without taking the proper steps to protect yourself legally. As a creative, it is essential to understand intellectual property to ensure all of your brilliant ideas are safe.

Copyright, Trademark or Patent

When it comes to intellectual property, there are three different IP rights: trademarks, patents and copyrights. Each one protects a different aspect of your business might do so it’s very important the difference between each and how they may apply to your business.

A copyright is used by artists, authors, and other creatives. Copyright covers physical works of music, art and other recordings. Copyrights are automatic and are technically created as soon as you create a piece of intellectual property, however, it is important to obtain some form of proof, just in case you have to go to court.

A trademark is a word, phrase, slogan, design or combination of thereof that identifies the source of the goods and services of one owner and distinguishes them from other owners. Getting a trademarks prevents others from using similar marks in a way that would cause a likelihood-of-confusion about the origin of the goods or services, however, trademarks don’t protect the actual good or service from being replicated. For example, if your business is Joe’s Record Shop, filing a trademark can stop Jo’s Record Shop from using that similar name, but if you have an “Album of the Week” promotion, you can’t stop another record store from having a similar promotion with a different name. That’s why marketing and branding is important to distinguish yourself from similar brands.

A patent protects inventions such as anything from Post It Notes to Airpods. A patent is a legal document that can protect your invention for up to 20 years. You need to be sure that the patent will prevent copying in the markets that you are interested in. Filling out a patent application can be tough and expensive so your first step should definitely be to consult with an IP attorney. Websites like Legalzoom are extremely helpful as well.

Intellectual property can be a difficult thing to understand, reach out to experts or visits sites such as the United States Patent and Trademark Office to learn more.

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