We have noticed over the years that people often come to us and know they want to protect something of theirs, but they are not quite sure what it is. Sometimes they will say: “I want to patent my idea”. Or….”I want to trademark the title of my book”. However they say it, what they are trying to say is: “I have an idea or something I created that I want to protect”. At the end of the day, we know that there is some form of intellectual property (“IP”) protection that can help them. Intellectual property law has been described as the law pertaining to products of the intellect such as inventions (patents), creative content (copyrights), brand names (trademarks), and secret formulas and processes (trade secrets). Essentially there are four basic intellectual property tools:
A patent is a grant made by a government that confers upon the creator or owner of an invention the right to exclude other from making, using, and selling that invention for a set period of time. There are three main types of patents: utility, design and plant.
A copyright is the legal right to control the duplication, distribution display, performance and adaptation of an “original work of authorship” such as a song, book, screenplay, poster, t-shirt design, work of art or computer program.
A trademark is a word or words, logo, sound, smell, color or product configuration – or any combination of them – that identifies and distinguishes one product or service from another. Examples of trademarks include EXXON, KODAK, YAHOO, GOOGLE, the Nike “swoosh” design, the color and shape of the Perrier water bottle, and the sound of the Yahoo yodel.
A trade secret is a formula, practice, process, design, or compilation of information which is not generally known and which is subject to reasonable efforts to keep it secret and which provides the trade secret owner with an economic advantage over competitors. Examples of trade secrets are secret customer lists, the formula for Coca-Cola and KFC’s 11 secret herbs and spices.
We believe one of our main jobs is to help our clients figure out which 1, 2, 3 or 4 of those tools to use and in what order. This is something we take seriously AND enjoy helping clients sort through. Once we understand what the client has or is developing and what their goals are, then we can help them develop the right plan for their budget.