WHAT IS "INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY"?
"Intellectual property" simply means something that is created out of your inventiveness. The contents of a book, your website, a recipe, the name of your business - all these are things you created. "Intellectual property" is contrasted with "real property," which typically means land and buildings, and with "personal property," which usually refers to things like cars, jewelry, your boat, or other movable items.
You've probably heard someone say, "Hey - you should patent that idea!" Unfortunately, there is no protection for the idea in your head, even if you blurt it out loud. However, once you start using an idea in a way that others can steal it...you may have created a type of intellectual property. And you may have created not only a patent, but a copyright, trademark, industrial design, trade secret or other type of "intellectual property."
Let's do a brief survey of some popular types of Intellectual Property.
Are you looking for a great name for your new business? One that is fresh and original, yet explains to customers exactly what you sell? You may be looking for a Trademark (also called a "brand name").
- What if you want a logo for your business? Logos, designs, and other signs you use to identify your business can also fall under the category of trademarks.
- Depending on the situation, you might also want to protect the distinctive "look and feel" of your business decor.
- Based on an important Supreme Court case which started right here in the State of Texas, the so-called "trade dress" of your business is also eligible for protection from copying. See Two Pesos, Inc. v. Taco Cabana, Inc., 505 U.S. 763 (1992).
- Trademarks are the one exception to the requirement for actual use. You can start requesting protection of your trademark as soon as you think of it - provided you have a genuine, or bona fide intention to use your trademark for commercial purposes.
Let's say you have a website for your business. The content of your website - including all the product descriptions and photographs - can be the subject of Copyright protection.
You may even have proprietary information - a secret recipe or algorithm, a better way of doing business, your own software - which gives your business a competitive edge. Such proprietary information may be your Trade Secret.
If you have invented something - a tangible item, a better process, even a design for machinery - you might have the makings of a Patent.
Intellectual Property, including Copyrights, Industrial Designs, Patents, Trademarks, and Trade Secrets can be worth a lot of money. As with insurance, you want to make sure you have protection - and that you are covered for the right thing. Intellectual Property law has many nuances. Make sure you speak with an attorney to ensure the right coverage for your Intellectual Property requirements.