Intellectual Property Rights – How Do They Work?
Do you have an amazing idea for your business?
Maybe you’ve come up with a unique and clever slogan or have created an eye-catching logo that encapsulates the nature of your business.
Before you unleash your idea into the world, it’s important to consider how you are going to protect your creation.
The process of claiming rights to that which you have created is more complicated than simply stating, “I made this. This is mine.”
Fortunately, there are laws that will protect your intellectual property from misuse and infringement.
Keep reading to learn more about what intellectual property rights are and how you can use them to protect your business.
What Are Intellectual Property Rights?
Intellectual property refers to the creations of the mind which enable individuals to earn recognition or financial benefit from what they have created or invented. These concepts and creations are protected by law.
There are four types of intellectual property that you should familiarize yourself with if you own a business.
Copyrights are a form of protection provided by law to the authors of original work. This includes writing, pictures, music, arts and other forms of intellectual works.
So if you created something and don’t want people to reuse your material without your permission, you can copyright your work.
The exception to this rule is known as “fair use” and allows others to use your material for educational, parody, commenting or news purposes.
A patent is the grant of a property right to the inventor of an invention and typically lasts for 20 years from when the inventor attempts to patent their invention.
Patents cover anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture or composition of matter as well as improvements of these things.
You can apply for a patent by filing with the patent office. If the office agrees that your idea is unique and useful, they will award you a patent to protect your right to what you have created.
After you have been approved, you can then produce and sell the concept or sell the idea to an investor.
A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of a product or good.
This would include your company name, logo, tagline, slogans and even colors. Trademarks serve as a brand identifier for your business or products.
Registering a trademark for your business is important. Otherwise, others can use aspects of your brand to gain trust from your existing customers.
Trade secrets include any piece of confidential corporate information that gives your business a competitive advantage.
A popular example of this would be Coca-Cola’s secret formula. If another soda company produced a beverage identical to Coca-Cola, they would face an infringement of Coca-Cola’s trade secret.
Trade secrets can include distribution methods, sales methods, consumer information, ad campaigns, lists (vendors, clients, etc.) and production process.
How to Protect Your Intellectual Property
Seek Professional Help
Protecting your intellectual property is a fairly straightforward process but there is never a guarantee that your application will be accepted.
Properly filling out your application involves careful use of language and many applications are not stringently examined by patent offices – which can lead to open interpretation on the protection of your property.
Before you start the application to protect your intellectual property, it is recommended that you seek professional advice to ensure your application is accepted and properly worded.
Consider What You Will Do With Your Intellectual Property
Before you invest in protecting your intellectual property, consider why you feel the need to protect it in the first place.
Some good reasons include stopping people from copying you or adding value to your company if you want to sell it in the future.
Keep in mind that well that intellectual property protection is only valuable if you are willing to pay the cost to enforce it.
Keep Your Idea to Yourself
It’s important to keep your idea a secret until you have filed a patent application. You may be excited to share your idea and garner interest from investors but, until you have your intellectual property protected, it is up for grabs.
Likewise, if your idea is published in a journal, for example, it is considered available to the public and no longer eligible for a patent application – unless you stipulate that the information you provide is confidential.
How Are Intellectual Property Rights Enforced?
Intellectual property rights are enforced through proceedings brought before the Federal Court of Canada – with the exception of the trade secret law which is dealt with on a provincial level.
If you have discovered that your intellectual property has been used unlawfully, your first step should be to determine your rights in regards to your property and verify any exceptions that may make the potential infringer’s use permissible.
A cease and desist letter is often sent to the potential offender in order to resolve the matter quickly, especially if the infringement was unintentional.
However, if the infringer ignores this letter or denies their actions, the matter may proceed to litigation to seek an injunction and monetary compensation.
Because this is a legal matter that may have to be dealt with in court, it is best to involve a lawyer early on in the enforcement process.
The Importance of Intellectual Property Rights
If you are a business owner, entrepreneur, innovator, inventor, designer or researcher, you need to take the protection of your intellectual property seriously.
People discover new things every day. While you are developing your idea to benefit your business, someone else might be creating the same thing.
Protecting your creation helps protect your ability to benefit from your hard work.
The process can be confusing but do not let that deter you from protecting the creations and ideas that are rightfully yours.
Take a step in the right direction by contacting our team of lawyers at Heritage Law. With our knowledge and expertise in commercial law, we can help you protect your intellectual property.