This is the first in a three-part series of posts about Intellectual property.
Intellectual property (“IP”) is property that is a creation of the mind, such as an invention, symbol, a work of art, your podcast name, your blog, your logo, the contents of your online course…really, this topic could not be more relevant to small business owners, especially “creatives” and online business owners! So, pay attention!!
There are four main types of intellectual property.
- Copyrights – A copyright protects us, the creator, from someone (copycats) stealing our work and our content. Copyrights protect an original expression of an idea. So, copyrights protect things like screenplays, stories, songs/music, sculptures/paintings, architectural plans, photographs, apps, music, blog posts, social media posts, online courses…basically all kinds of content that you may create as a small business owner. And here’s the thing: copyright protections are automatic! Once you create something it is yours. However, the catch is that IF someone steals your stuff and you want to sue the pants off them, then you must register your copyright BEFORE you can sue them. Basically, if it is worth protecting, copyright it NOW and be done with it.
- Trademarks – Trademarks exist to protect consumers. They exist so that the consumer can recognize their favorite brand of potato chips in a sea of potato chips all in the same aisle at the grocery store. Trademarks exist so there is no confusion on the part of the consumer about what brand, exactly, they are buying. Trademarks refer to phrases, words, or symbols that distinguish the source of a product or service of one business from another. For example, the Nike symbol, which nearly all could easily identify, is a type of trademark. Another beautiful example is Apple computers. The Apple logo of Apple computers is unique, you normally wouldn’t think of a fruit as having anything whatsoever to do with computers, that is, until Apple worked it magic and branded itself using an apple with a cute bite out of it as its logo. Think of trademarks as a short cue for customers so they recognize our business, our logo, the name of our online course, the name of our blog or podcast, and they associate that with ONLY US. There is far more nuance to trademark, and I will address those nuances in an upcoming blog post.
- Trade secrets – Trade secrets refer to the specific, private information that is important to your business because it gives your business a competitive advantage in the marketplace. I’m talking about things like your MailChimp email list, your customer list, your specific pricing strategies, your internal processes, your marketing strategies, your deals with your vendors, your processes for how you onboard clients, recipes that you use in your restaurant business. Basically, a trade secret is something that, if acquired by your competitor, could harm your business because it gives them an unfair advantage. Trade secrets are protected without official registration. The best way to protect your trade secrets is to have an attorney include certain provisions in several of your contracts that will keep your trade secrets confidential and protected. For instance, employment agreements, independent contractor agreements, NDAs often contain provisions geared towards protecting a business’s trade secrets.
- Patents – Patents protect inventions that are novel and non-obvious. For example:
Slip our Stor-Pod™ Shelf Enclosure over your shelving unit to create a fully enclosed storage area in your garage, basement, or attic. Items stored on the shelves are protected from dust, bugs and moisture, thanks to the innovative material that allows ventilation and prevents mildew. The zipper door rolls up and ties back for easy access to items inside.
When the owner holds a patent, others are prohibited under the law from offering for sale, making, or using the product. The item must be sufficiently different that other items on the market.
See, the material is “innovative” allows ventilation and prevents mildew. This product, while boring, and certainly not revolutionary, is a great example because it is just different enough, has its own design, and has features that (I assume) differ significantly from other items that may be similar to this one.
Also, note that the “Stor-Pod” is trademarked because the person who invented this contraption wanted that name associated with only its product. Now, the consumer knows exactly what he or she is buying!
In upcoming blogs, we will talk more in depth about trademark and copyrights. In the meantime, if you need assistance with IP, contact an attorney at Wick Law today to discuss your intellectual property needs.
Wick Law, LLC is a small business legal practice, representing owners, investors, and entrepreneurs in all aspects of commercial, corporate, and business law, estate planning, contracts and negotiations, business litigation, and real estate. For more information: Contact 614-572-6366, visit www.mwicklaw.com, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Wick Law, LLC is located in Columbus, Ohio.
(Materials in this article have been prepared by Wick Law, LLC for general informational purposes only. This list is for educational purposes and is not to be considered exhaustive. More items could be added to this checklist based upon the type of transaction or industry standards. These materials do not, and are not intended to, constitute legal advice. The information provided is not privileged and does not create an attorney-client relationship with Wick Law, LLC or any of the firm’s lawyers. This checklist is not an offer to represent you. You should not act, or refrain from acting, based upon any information in this checklist. Wick Law, LLC maintains offices in Columbus, Ohio, and has lawyers licensed to practice in Ohio and in the United States District Court, Southern District of Ohio. The firm does not intend to practice law in any jurisdiction where the firm is not licensed.)
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