• By: Parul Das
  • Published: May 16, 2024
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Trademarks, Copyrights, And Patents

As I’ve mentioned already, I practice trademark and copyright law. I cannot practice patent law, because I don’t have a technical background and I am not licensed. I have not taken the patent bar exam, and so I’m not a licensed patent attorney. For trademarks and copyrights, however, I can be of immense help.

There are many things to consider when thinking through what protections your new business needs. As a starting point, if you have a novel, non-obvious invention, there are certain factors you have to meet to get patent protection. However, patents can cost between $15,000 and $25,000. This almost excessively expensive — and time-consuming — process can take two years at a minimum and up to five to seven years.

In a patent application, you must explain your invention in great detail, but the trade-off for a patent isn’t insignificant. In exchange for doing so and having your patent granted, you essentially get a monopoly — exclusive rights to produce what you have invented. How long this remains in effect depends on the type of mechanism, device, software, or medicine that’s in question, but it generally ranges between 17 and 20 years.

On the other hand, a trademark, which protects brand identities, can last forever so long as you keep up your renewal filings. What’s more, trademarks aren’t nearly as involved as patents. All you have to file is a specimen of use (to show that the mark is being used in commerce) and pay the filing fees for your renewals. The first renewal occurs between the fifth and sixth year of the trademark’s use, then three years later at the ten-year mark, and once every ten years thereafter.

Copyrights typically last 70 years and protect works of art, such as visual art, literary works, and even jewelry designs. Of course, copyrights and trademarks aren’t the same, but they often complement each other. As such, businesses frequently opt to secure both to safeguard various aspects of their intellectual assets. For example, I have one client who decided to protect the name brand of their jewelry business with a trademark and the actual designs of the jewelry with a copyright. The result? Comprehensive intellectual property protections.

Trade Secrets are how you protect secret information your business relies on not only to survive but to thrive. You could almost say it’s the opposite of the three intellectual property protections I just mentioned. Why? With trade secret protections, the thing being protected is not disclosed to the public whatsoever.

One of the most famous examples of trade secret protection is the recipe for Coca-Cola – the popular rumor is that this recipe is kept in a vault. You may think it’s excessive that only two people can get to a recipe for soda that’s locked in a vault in Atlanta, but if you were running a business valued around over $100 billion that was built on this trade secret, you probably wouldn’t take any chances.

The thing is, in order to protect a trade secret, you have to prove that the information you wish to protect is actually protected and that not many people in the company have access to it. So, when clients come to me about patents, I ask them something in return: Do you want to disclose your method, or do you want to keep it a secret? As soon as you send off your patent application, it’s subject to the public, and anyone can potentially access your methodology. How will you know whether or not they’re using your methods?

While attractive for this reason, going the route of a trade secret can prove very difficult to enforce should an issue arise down the road – so you may be better off opting for another route unless you can get away with having only two people within your organization having knowledge or access to whatever it is you want to protect.

What’s more, business doesn’t cease to be business even in the realm of prize secrets, so you still need to have contracts in place. The people who are privy to the information in question have to sign non-disclosure agreements and certify that they understand and accept that:

  • They’re dealing with a trade secret;
  • They cannot disclose certain information;
  • The information that they are using is extremely confidential.

By acknowledging these things, they commit to securely storing information to prevent unauthorized access.

Having handled these types of cases throughout my career, I know firsthand how intricate this entire process can be. I have helped businesses keep things trade secreted through the use of contracts and secretive steps to make sure that they actually are valid trade secrets.

For more information on Protections Needed By New Businesses, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (214) 307 9868 today.

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