No matter if you own a successful business or are a budding entrepreneur starting out, understanding how to protect your business ideas is essential to attracting investors, securing funding, growing the company, and ensuring its longevity.
If you have an idea, and it is in a state of development and you have a sufficient amount of cash, you can choose from the following four ways to protect your intellectual property:
US patents fall into three major categories: utility-based patents (90% of all patents); design-based patents; and plant-based patents. Inventions and designs are patentable, and they are able to be excluded from being made, used, or sold for a specific period of time. A patent can only be obtained by filing a U.S. application. Office of Patents and Trademarks (USPTO).
In addition to inventions or discoveries of new and useful processes, machines, articles of manufacture, or compositions of matter, utility patents may be granted to any new and useful improvement thereof. Utility patents, also known as “patents for invention,” account for approximately 90% of the patents issued by the USPTO during recent years. Utility patents last 20 years from the date of filing.
Inventors of new, original, and ornamental designs for manufactures may apply for a design patent. Design patents are typically obtained in the case of products with visually pleasing features. Infringing products are defined as any items that are so similar to the patented product that an “ordinary observer” may mistake them for the original product and purchase them. Coca-Cola’s unique bottle shape is one of the famous design patents. A clothing company will often patent a unique design to prevent competitors from copying it. Patented designs have a lifespan of up to 14 years from the date of issuance.
The same invention can be protected by a design patent as well as a utility patent in many cases. Further, it is possible to obtain a copyright for the subject, and if it constitutes a work of art, as well as serves as a trademark, a registration for a trademark can be obtained.
Those who discover and asexually reproduce any new and distinct variety of plant can be granted a plant patent.
Most patent applications require the assistance of a patent attorney or agent, which can cost thousands of dollars. Patents need to be renewed at 3 years, 7 years and 11.5 years after they are granted.
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Literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works are protected by copyright, including poetry, novels, films, songs, computer software, and architecture. Although copyright may protect ways in which these things are expressed, facts, ideas, systems, and methods of operation are not protected by it. In order to have copyright protection, your work does not have to be registered. The only works eligible to recover statutory damages and attorney’s fees are registered works. To protect your work, you should submit it to the U.S. You can get Copyright Office for just $35 to $55 online.
Whether a work has been published and, if so, the date of first publication, determines the duration of its copyright. Generally, the copyright protection applies to works created after January 1, 1978 for the author’s lifetime plus another 70 years.
Trademarks are words, phrases, or designs that identify the source of goods of one business from those of its competitors. U.S. trademark registration confers rights, but use alone is not sufficient to secure ownership. In the United States, the Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) helps enforce these rights.
In order to apply, you will need a clear representation of the mark as well as a description of the products or services that will be covered. Depending on several factors, including the type and number of goods or services, you can submit an online application, which requires a filing fee. It’s complicated to apply for a trademark, so, like patents, most people hire attorneys who specialize in trademarks.
According to Texas trade secrets laws (TUTSA), trade secrets are protected. The state of Texas allows businesses and individuals to claim trade secrets for any information that (1) has economic value due to the fact that it is not generally known and (2) is subject to reasonable efforts to maintain the secrecy. A trade secret may include, but is not limited to, formulas, patterns, compilations, programs, devices, methods, techniques, processes, financial data or lists of actual or potential customers or suppliers.
Trade secrets may be protected even if the products or processes cannot be protected by patents, copyright or trademarks since they have economic value and the owner’s efforts are reasonable under the necessary circumstances in keeping the secrets.
Texans may also seek an injunction pursuant to the TUTSA if they believe their trade secrets are being misappropriated or threatened with misappropriation. It is a court order that blocks the use of information claimed to be a trade secret if it is granted. The owner must act fast after discovering misappropriation or a court might decide that the misappropriated information isn’t as valuable as the owner claims. Injunctive relief is sometimes the only way to protect valuable information from being stolen or misused by a competitor.