According to the U.S. Commerce Department in 2012 intellectual property (IP)-intensive industries contributed more than $5 trillion dollars to U.S. GDP. Control of intellectual property rights translates to control of the revenues they generate. Intellectual property rights in the United States are exclusive rights to proprietary assets such as patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets. In some cases the protection of intellectual property assets requires filing documents with the U.S. Copyright Office, or the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), and in other cases precise contract language governs ownership and licensing rights to various copyrights, patents, know-how and famous brands. Understanding of the differences between different forms of intellectual property and the IP protection and exploitation strategy is essential to not only meeting formalities and the legal protection of intellectual property assets, but understanding product and market positioning through the lens of competitive barrier strategy. Patents. Patents protect creators by granting exclusive rights to an inventor for a limited amount of time to inventions in the form of an improvement, a product, or a process. Technology patent protection requires federal filing with the United States Patent and Trademark Office with unforgiving timelines. Ideas by themselves are not patentable, however patent rights, (or patent pending rights) allow inventors to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling their creations or importing the invention into the United States which incorporate protected patents. Trademarks. Under trademark law, a distinct sign, design, or expression that identifies products or services of a particular source from others can be protected. Trademark laws are used to distinguish one brand from its competitors — to prevent others from using a confusingly similar mark in specific sectors of industry or markets. Unlike patents which expire 20 years after the filing date, trademark rights last forever, provided the owner continues its use in commerce. Copyrights. Copyrights protect authors’ original works of expression, including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic and other works which fall under copyright subject matter, including software code and user-interface. Copyright protection does not require registration, but rather attaches at the moment an idea is fixed in a tangible medium of expression. However, copyright registration provides several advantages to its owners. Intellectual Property Assets of Technology Ventures Intellectual property is the stock in trade of most technology startups, developing ideas, websites, mobile applications and social media campaigns. A solid understanding of the different forms of intellectual property, meeting their formalities, and using IP to protect from business competition is not optional but required in successful product launches and tech startup ventures.
Author: David N. Sharifi, Esq. is a Los Angeles based intellectual property attorney and technology startup consultant with focuses in entertainment law, emerging technologies, trademark protection, and “the internet of things”. David was recognized as one of the Top 30 Most Influential Attorneys in Digital Media and E-Commerce Law by the Los Angeles Business Journal in 2014. Office: Ph: 310-751-0181; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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