Most of us, at one point or another, have seen those small encircled letters accompanying a logo or design. Well, that letter is a symbol denoting one’s intellectual property. Intellectual property, or IP, is something one creatively contrives. This could be a work of art, a tagline, a logo, or an invention. There are five types of IP that are most commonly used.
A copyright is one of the most commonly used types of intellectual property, which protects the original work of the creator. This covers a wide spectrum of mediums including paintings, illustrations, photos, music, apps, books, movies, and much more. This isn’t something you need to apply for, it’s something you obtain automatically. You can do this by marking your work with the © symbol. This will legally protect your work from people copying it, redistributing it for free or for profit, making adaptations of your work, or displaying your work publicly.
A trademark is simply any symbol, design, or phrase that’s used to identify a service or goods coming from a specific source. There are two categories of trademarks: registered and unregistered. Both of these trademarks are protected by law, but federally registered trademarks have a wider range of protection. You can trademark copy, audio, colors, smells, motion graphics, logos, and much more. Trademarks are protected for up to 10 years.
Have you ever wondered what the Colonel’s secret fried chicken recipe is? I bet you have, but unfortunately for us, that’s a trade secret. A trade secret is a piece of information that the owner classifies as legally confidential. This includes a broad range of information, including info that gives its owner a competitive advantage due to its limited availability to the public.
A design right protects key attributes of a product or article that are specific to its identity or appearance. Design rights are applied to a variety of products such as home goods, handcrafted items, containers, furniture, jewelry, electronic devices, and much more. A great example of this would be a Dyson vacuum. Both the technology and design are protected so the structure, aesthetic, and functionality are all unique to that company.
Have you ever had a great idea for a product, just to realize that someone has already beat you to it and patented it? The patent can prevent you from coming out with a product closely mimicking another because it protects and registers inventions and makes it illegal for anyone to make or sell the said invention without the owner’s consent. The invention must be new, inventive, and have industrial applicability.
It’s very important to know which of these specific types of intellectual property apply to you and your product, service, design, or invention. Being diligent about something like your company name or logo ahead of time can save you a lot of trouble down the road, so remember to always protect your work!