Whether you’re creating a business, designing a logo, or creating a work of art, it’s important to be knowledgeable about what your rights are surrounding intellectual property in Colorado. Understanding what you have domain over and what you need legal protection for can better help you keep your inventions, company, or work safe.
Intellectual property refers to the legal protection, through copyrights or trademarks, of ideas, inventions, and literary and artistic images and designs, commercial or otherwise. This protection allows the owner of those ideas to profit off of or claim recognition for their creations, giving innovations of the human mind the same protections as physical property.
The intellectual property system, at its base level, is useful for the protection of innovation and the creation of ideas and inventions that are not physical objects and are instead intangible assets.
A balance between ideations, their creators, and the well-being and interest of the general public are kept in balance with the intellectual property system. Intellectual property is especially useful for companies, so they’re able to create value from their ideas and logos without having that value stolen from them. This goes for both small businesses and large corporations.
Intellectual property can represent a brand, be a process of creation, or represent a competitive advantage. Because of this, these intangible assets are incredibly valuable, and getting legal protection for them is necessary.
Copyrights are aimed toward original works of creation and their creators and authors. They protect works of authorship and art, such as books, movies, music compositions, works of physical art, photos, plays, architectural designs, and many other creations. It can also refer to titles, phrases or slogans, symbols, or a list of contents.
While copyrights extend to these expressions of creation, they don’t extend to the process or concept of discovering or conceptualizing the creation. Copyrights protect these works and the creator’s rights to use their work, as well as copy or duplicate them, create derivative and duplicate works, and perform or display their creation. It also gives the creator the ability to grant others these same allowances through a licensing agreement.
Copyrights are also automatically granted to an author of any original creation before the moment of its creation. There is no registration needed for this, but you can register a copyright to enhance the protection if you wish. This registration doesn’t protect you from an intellectual property claim, but it can be used as evidence in such a case.
There are, of course, exceptions to copyrights, such as fair use and public domain works. Currently, created works have a copyright status for the length of the author’s life plus seventy years. Hired works have a copyright lifespan of 120 years after creation or 95 years after publication, whichever one comes first.
These are property rights for an investor and are considered a government agency-granted monopoly. With a patent, you’re able to design, build, process, sell, improve, and use your invention, but in exchange for a patent, you must disclose the process of creation so that it’s able to be recreated. However, a patent prevents others from building and selling your invention, though they only last from fourteen to twenty years. Types of patents include:
Patents also require regular fees to maintain and only protect the patent in the country it was given.
A trademark is for a symbol, insignia, phrase, design, or any combination thereof that is recognizable and represents a brand or product. Trademarks allow you legal brand protection with your trademark exclusively assigned to your company. They identify goods and services as legally distinct and source them to your company. This helps guard your products against fraud and counterfeiting.
A trademark is used for goods, and a service mark is used for services, but generally, they’re all called trademarks. It’s more likely to be considered a trademark if your word or design is unique, and once you’ve gained a trademark, you own how it is used. The trademark only applies to the geographic area it was granted in, as it’s a separate process to be granted a trademark nationwide.
A franchise is when a company, the franchisor, licenses a smaller business owner, company, or individual, the franchisee, to sell a product or provide a service under the franchisee’s name. The franchisor is then paid start-up and licensing fees. The franchise could also include a trademark, name, or knowledge of property and processes.
A trade secret could be a number of things: a process of creation, a design or pattern, a business model, a marketing strategy, formula or recipe, supplier price information, and other important business matters. It’s something within the company that is not publicly accessible and gives your company an economic or competitive advantage. What it comes down to is that a trade secret is anything your company doesn’t want a competitor to get a hold of.
A trade secret must be actively protected by the company. If steps are not taken to keep the information confidential, then it can’t be considered a trade secret. To determine if something is a trade secret, it’s evaluated how much the information is known outside of the company, the importance of the information to a competitor, what steps were taken to prevent the common knowledge, and the ease of duplication of the information. If these and other factors are met, then something can be considered a trade secret.
If you want to take steps to protect your product or company, an experienced trademark attorney is important to ensure the process is secure and simple. Four Reasons Legal can guide you through the trademarking process and make sure that your application isn’t missing anything. For any questions about trademark law or how to protect your trademark, contact us today.