Legal View

Legal Views

ScalesLast month I wrote about the three pillars of intellectual property: Trademarks, Copyrights and Patents.  Now that you know the difference between the various types of Intellectual Property, the question becomes: How do I protect my Intellectual Property?  Read on below for information on how to obtain a Trademark, Copyright and Patent!

Trademarks

  1. The first step in applying for a trademark is conducting a trademark search. You will want to search for companies in your industry with similar names, products, and logos.  Your trademark must be unique enough to not be confused with another previously registered trademark.  The United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) offers a free to use search system available at http://www.uspto.gov/trademarks
  2. Once you have completed your trademark search and determining that your desired trademark is available, you can fill out a trademark application online at http://www.uspto.gov/teas. Using the online application form is the least expensive method of registering a Trademark, starting at $225.
  3. After completion, your Trademark Application will be reviewed by an examining attorney, who will determine whether federal law permits registration of your trademark. This is a long process.  After submission, applications take anywhere from 3 months to over a year for review.  It is your duty to check on the status of your application periodically and reply with any requests for information from the patent office.
  4. For more information on obtaining a trademark, visit http://www.uspto.gov

Copyrights

  1. The first step in obtaining copyright protection is to determine if your work is protectable by a copyright. A copyright only protects ‘original works of authorship’ in a tangible form or expression.
  2. If your work is protectable by copyright, the next step is to reduce your work to a digital format. When submitting your application, you are required to submit a digital copy.  In some instances, you may have to submit a hardcopy of your work, which becomes the property of the US government.
  3. The final step of obtaining a copyright is to submit an application to the United States Copyright Office (USCO), which costs $35. You can submit your copyright application online at http://www.copyright.gov.  The USCO will send you an acknowledgement of receipt of your application once it is has been received.  Processing time for copyright applications are up to 8 months for online applications and up to 13 months for hardcopy applications.  Once you register your copyrighted material, it becomes available to the public on the internet.
  4. For more information on obtaining a copyright, visit http://www.copyright.gov

Patents

  1. Keep a careful record of your invention, product or production method.  Record every step in your process, diagram and describe every aspect and modification, including how you initially came up with the idea.  For added security, sign and date each entry and consider having a reliable witness or two sign as well.  Make sure that your idea qualifies for a patent.  You cannot get a patent on an idea along.  You must show how your invention works and it must be new.  This means that your invention, product or production method must be different in a materially way from all previous inventions and methods.
  2. Once you have completed and documented your invention, product or production method, the next step is to conduct a thorough patent search. You will need to look at all prior developments in your field by searching through existing patents both foreign and domestic, and looking through other publications like scientific and technical journals.  This can be a lengthy and time consuming process.  While the internet is a great place to start your search, it is advisable that you visit a Patent and Trademark Depository Library, where you can search through existing patents and get help from a Patent Librarian.
  3. After you have concluded your patent search and determined that your invention, product or production method qualifies for a patent, you must file an application with the USPTO. You have two options when filing a patent application: Provisional Patent Application (PPA) and a Regular Patent Application (RPA).  A PPA is less expensive, has fewer requirements and is intended to give inventors the ability to have an earlier filing date for the purposes of protecting your intellectual property.  If you file a PPA, you must file an RPA within one year or else you can no longer claim the PPA filing date.  Patent applications can be completed online at http://www.uspto.gov
  4. The process for patent applications can be quite complicated and very detailed. It is therefore highly advisable that you consult with an IP Attorney for assistance.  For more detailed information of patent application requirements, visit http://www.uspto.gov.

For more information on registering and protecting your intellectual property, visit an IP lawyer in your area!

[DISCLAIMER: This article does NOT contain legal advice and NO attorney-client relationship arises from reading it.  Always contact an attorney in your jurisdiction to learn about laws applicable to you.]

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