Protecting Intellectual Property: An Easy Guide for Startups
Updated: Aug 8, 2018
The article by Todd Baker was originally published at UpCounsel.
Intellectual property (IP) is a general term for the rights recognized by U.S. law for creations of the mind, which includes trademarks, copyrights, patents, and trade secrets. Having IP rights for your company’s creations protects your ideas from competitors and infringers. With IP rights your company’s creations are protected by putting the world on notice that you own those rights by registering them with the U.S. Copyright Office or the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), and by using the proper notice symbols on tangible materials that contain your IP (©, ® and Patent Pending).
Additionally, IP rights prevent unauthorized third parties (infringers) from unfairly competing with you by reproducing your protected works, using confusingly similar trademarks on their products, making/selling products similar to your patented products, or stealing your trade secrets. Finally, your company can use your IP rights to generate revenue by (1) directly selling copyrighted, branded, patented, or other proprietary products and services; (2) licensing your copyrights, trademarks, patents and trade secrets to others in exchange for royalties; or build joint ventures and alliances with other companies to develop and sell new products and services by combining your IP rights with intellectual property owned by your strategic partners.