How to Protect Intellectual Property

Intellectual property (IP) refers to the property that we’ve created in our minds, or ideas that we’ve distributed. This may include anything from trade secrets to a band’s hit song. Intellectual property is protected by copyrights, patents and trademarks.

Even though intellectual property often lacks tangibility, it is still not up for grabs and is given its own set of protections. The following list details what those protections include.

Types of Protections

Depending on what type of intellectual property you’re dealing with, there are a variety of protections available. The first step is assessing where your particular IP falls.

  1. Patents – These protections are for inventions, and typically last 20 years.
  2. Trademarks – These refer to the protections that are used by a business’s symbol, logo or slogan. As long as the creator of the trademark continues to renew the rights, a company may maintain trademark rights indefinitely. Typically, trademarks are indicated next to a brand name with either a small “TM” or an “R” with a circle around it, both located at the top right above the brand’s name.
  3. Copyrights – These are less business-related and more pertain to a creative work, such as a novel or a digital program. These are typically protected as soon as a person creates the work; however, it is the responsibility of the creator to ensure that no one is duplicating the efforts or stealing the idea for his or her own use. Copyrights may also be formally issued, with proper application.
  4. Industrial designs – These refer to items such as plans for a particular computer chip, and they are protected under United States patent law.
  5. Geographical indications – These are a bit of an abstract selection that has come to the forefront in recent years. There’s some ambiguity between products named after the region they’re from—as in “Champagne” only being authentic Champagne if it is from the Champagne region of France. There are far less examples of these than most. However, they are protected under law not dissimilar from that of a trademark—though of course, it is not fully a trademark, as it is a geographical region as well.

Steps to Protection

Regardless of the type of IP, here is a list of surefire steps that will ensure your information remains protected.

  1. Register your idea – Reach out to the respective office to get the ball rolling on your respective protections.
  2. Mums the word – Avoid excessive communication of your idea. Sure, you’re excited about it, but wait until you’re fully protected before bragging about it to potential competition. Rivals will smell blood!
  3. Write it all down – If you have adequate documentation, you will be able to point to your plans in the event your idea is undercut by another. Brevity is not a priority here—the more information you’re able to record, the better.

Don’t Worry – You’ll Be Fine!

Once you fully prepare yourself with your IP protections, you will be all set, and you’ll be free to focus on your product or idea without the worry of who might get their hands on it