If you are starting a company or updating the vision and look of an existing company, ensure that you think about the types of Intellectual Property (IP) that you currently have or plan to create. Other forms of IP in Product Design can include Patents, Copyrights, Trademarks, and Trade Secrets. It has been found that companies who have intangible assets such as IP standout amongst those who don’t and make them more valuable especially when seeking an IPO or Mergers and acquisitions (M&A).
Aside from the most common types of IP that include Patents (Provisional Patent, Design Patent, Utility Patent, Plant Patent), other types of IP that can be developed typically include Copyrights and Trademarks. Today, information is more accessible than ever, which means that safeguarding your startup’s IP is vital to its success.
According to the U.S. Copyright Office, Copyright law protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture. Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed. Most start-ups in the tech space will Copyright company logos, product names, and product logos to name a few. Upon creation of your work, the symbol © can be used to show Copyright ownership.
Once your Trademarked item is first used in commerce for your goods or services, you become the owner of it. You establish rights to the Trademark once it is in use, but those rights are limited unless you register the mark with the United States Patent and Trademark office (USPTO) to apply for federal registration. While you are not required to register the Trademark with the USPTO, it does provide you with a broader range of use and protection in the event someone tries to steal it or use it without your authorization. To let competitors and consumers know that you have claims to your work, you can use the symbols “TM” for goods and “SM” for services. Once your mark is registered with the USPTO, you can start to use the registered Trademark symbol ®.
Prior to filing your Trademark with the USPTO, it is advised to either consult with an IP Attorney or conduct a search on your own to see if a similar mark has already been filed and issued. The USPTO office has some online tools that can be used to conduct your own search. The Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) contains the records of all active and inactive trademark registrations and applications. This comprehensive searchable database shows all registered trademarks that have been submitted into their system to see if there are any conflicts with your trademark. A good starting point for your search would be to identify and evaluate what class your trademark would be applying for. Often times similar marks are applied for in different Classes since the service or product is different and does not cause any confusion in the marketplace.
To learn more about Patents, view our post about five ways to safeguard your intellectual property and protect your invention from theft.
Protecting all of your Intellectual Property is an important part of developing intangible IP and to develop additional assets that can be used for the company in the future. We highly recommend working with an experienced Intellectual Property Attorney to find the best IP strategy for your company.
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