Business Intellectual Property: Protection From Copyright Infringement
A business’s intellectual property has the potential to be its most important asset, granting it a huge competitive edge over competitors across industries. This is because intellectual property is uniquely created by creativity and innovation and it ought to be protected as such.
Intellectual Property Rights
Intellectual property rights can be broadly grouped into four categories which are trademarks, copyrights, patents, and trade secrets. As an initial gesture of protection, a business should protect its intellectual property rights by registering a trademark or filing for a patent application. These are examples of the first, but by no means last, steps involved in protecting a business’s valuable and intangible assets.
Monitor Your Intellectual Property Regularly
Once registered, a business should remain aware and continue to monitor its intellectual property in order to identify and put a stop to infringement and unfair use. In fact, taking the time to review both proactive and protective measures is essential to securing your intellectual property; it’s best to think of this time spent as a crucial investment to ensure your company’s competitive standing and financial success. A common misconception is that once intellectual property rights and protections are granted, no one will dare to infringe upon your work. The reality couldn’t be any more different. Nobody is going to look for copyright violations or trademark infringement on your behalf: it’s always up to you to actively protect your work. Trademarks, copyrights, and patents merely make it so that in the event of a lawsuit, you will have a far more compelling case on your side since the government acknowledged your intellectual property.
Protections and Benefits Granted by Each Type of Registered Intellectual Property
While registering your work isn’t a guarantee of protection, it is still the best thing to do first and foremost. To review, the protections and benefits granted by each type of registration are:
- Trademark Registration: grants you the right to use the R symbol (®), giving you far more legitimacy to your claim. That trademark symbol also serves to inform the public of your claim and it has legal backing.
- Patent Registration: gives you the right to use the patent pending designation which may discourage many companies from developing a product they won’t be able to use or sell for long. Also grants you the exclusive right to produce and sell the patented product or design.
- Copyright Registration: upholds your right to file suit against an infringer and to collect damages and attorney’s fees from the guilty party upon winning the lawsuit. Also allows you to use the copyright symbol with your work (©).
Document The First Time You Use Your Intellectual Property
You will want to ensure you maintain your protective measures, too. This means taking the time to do some basic upkeep, such as documenting your first use to make it easier to defend in court, should the need arise, and renewing your trademarks on time, using them continuously and filing any paperwork needed to document its use. Bear in mind also that if you choose to begin marketing or otherwise disclose your invention publicly before filing for patent protection, remember that you have to file your patent application within one year of disclosure and you must be the first to file, or you will lose the right to protection. For this reason, you may wish to consider starting with a provisional patent application to protect your rights.
Get Registered at Home, Get Registered Abroad!
If you intend on marketing your invention, product, or design in other countries, then you may want to look into registering your intellectual property in those countries, as well. This will ensure maximum protection and profit for your company. Fortunately, the U.S. has several treaties and conventions which make it easier for U.S. citizens and businesses to register patents and trademarks in multiple countries with one application. You’ll still have to follow each country’s law, though. For instance:
- Lots of countries require that you file for patent protection within a year of disclosing your invention or idea publicly,
- Some may require that you file for patent protection prior to making your new product public,
- And others still may require that you include more than a trademark or copyright symbol with your marketing or advertising to signal that you have claimed that product.
Many foreign countries also have agreements with the United States to recognize your copyright registration automatically. Check to see if the countries you’re interested in have this type of agreement, and if they do not, look into what the requirements are for you to register.
Shhh! It’s a Secret.
Oftentimes, the best way of protecting your intellectual property is simply by keeping quiet about it. This is especially the case if your work isn’t patentable or if you plan to protect it by using the trade secrets law. In those cases, you definitely want to limit the amount of people you tell about it. Whenever possible, get your partners and investors to sign off on non-disclosure agreements and make sure to specify in those agreements what exactly must be kept confidential and for how long. As another measure, you might want to still keep quiet about your idea even after filing a patent application since in most cases protection only begins once the United States Patents and Trademark Office actually grants your patent.
Keep Track of Your Market
All of the laws and registrations we discussed offer you legal avenues for remedies after your work has been infringed or used illegally, but they do not actually prevent your work from being stolen in the first place. This is because some people may not be aware of the law and others just may not care. Sometimes, even a thorough patent or trademark search misses something. As such, it is your job to keep an eye on your industry trends and developments. In particular, you will want to keep a close eye on your industry developments:
- Pay attention to new products and companies, taking note of the images and words in their remarks
- Create internet search alerts using Google alerts to receive email when trademarked words or phrases similar to yours are surfaced or mentioned online
- If your trademark is especially important or valuable, consider hiring a trademark search firm to police your mark more aggressively. Companies or firms such as these will search both domestic and international trademark and domain databases.
- Be wary of trademark dilution; if you let your mark become a common term or phrase rather than a unique branding for your company, you risk losing your right to it. As an example, “zipper” used to be a trademarked name, but it ended up becoming a product category rather than a brand.
- Look into products that look similar to yours and pull up their patent filings to determine if they infringe upon your patent.
When Push Comes to Shove…Pushback!
At the worst case scenario, you would locate instances of actual infringement and it is at this point that you must stand up for yourself by taking action. What you ought to do in each case will vary, contingent upon a few circumstances, like:
- Send a cease and desist letter in which you clearly tell the infringer to stop using your work. You can send this yourself, but for maximum impact, it’s best to have your lawyer send it.
- Send a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notice for copyright infringement on the internet.
- Request a court injunction to stop a patent infringer from continuing to make or sell the product without your consent.
- File a lawsuit. However, depending on the situation, you will have to decide if you have a compelling enough case to make this option worth the cost and effort.
In these types of strenuous situations, experienced intellectual property lawyers can make all the difference. At Kaass Law, we have helped many clients manage and defend their patents, trademarks, and copyrights. We believe in the spirit of innovation and originality and we go out of our way to protect our clients’ work and property. We can help you to evaluate and determine which protections are best for your case as well as deciding upon which avenues to take to uphold and defend your rights. We invite you to give us a toll free call at (310) 943-1171 to speak to our experienced Los Angeles intellectual property attorney today.