Recently, I went to a meeting of fledgling entrepreneurs. I introduced myself as an intellectual property attorney. One of the new CEOs responded, “Oh, you must be very helpful to companies who have intellectual property.”
“Well, actually, most companies have intellectual property,” I responded. “Many companies, however, don’t consider IP protection until they need it.”
Have you ever wondered:
Does my startup have any intellectual property that can be legally protected?
Here are the most common areas where most companies have some form of IP protection.
Many companies have brands that may be protected by trademark law. Brands distinguish your products from competitors and can be your company’s ambassadors of good will.
When a company sells goods or services under a brand name that is not generic or merely descriptive, some state common law rights may arise.
Federal trademark registration can result in stronger protection nationwide. See the related post.
Federal copyright law may protect software, marketing materials, logos, website content, photographs, articles, presentations, videos, and music. These rights arise automatically when the original work is created (and fixed in a tangible medium). Federal copyright registration has important benefits.
Be sure that your company owns the copyrights to important works. Copyrights vest in the author of the work, except in special circumstances. Make sure your company has taken the proper steps to own the rights. See related posts regarding copyright assignment and works made for hire by employees.
Trade Secret Law
In all fifty states, trade secret law protects secret, protected information that confers a competitive advantage, like price sheets, specifications, source code, customer lists, manufacturing techniques and secret formulas.
To get protection from unauthorized use or disclosure, a company must take reasonable precautions to protect the information and keep it reasonably secret. See related posts for identifying trade secrets.
Take inventory of what types of intellectual property your company owns. Don’t wait until your competitor confuses customers with a similar brand, copies your website content, or steals your customer list to understand your rights and remedies.
The information provided in this legal blog is not intended as legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not submit questions or comments seeking legal advice or submit confidential information through this blog. By communicating through this blog, you understand and agree that the information will not be treated as confidential and the publisher has no duty to keep it confidential.