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If the truth be told, nothing is 100% original. One is merely an updated or revised version of the other. This goes the same way in business. Given this state of things, is intellectual property now a thing of the past? I personally don’t think so.

Intellectual property is defined as an intangible object that refers to the generation of ideas for products and/or services. There are three subtypes of intellectual property and these are the patents, the trademarks and the copyrights. Each of these is independent of the other. To summarize what each covers, just remember that trademarks offer protection to brands, copyrights to written content and patents to inventions.

The importance of IP is that gives great value to research and development. It’s not just because of the money you might get but because you feel a strong sense of accomplishment as you are fully compensated for your creations.

As an entrepreneur, you should be able to identify the areas of your business covered by IP so that you can take proactive measures to protect it.

How can you patent an invention?

There are steps that you can take to make this possible. The first of which is to take advantage of free resources like www.google.com/patents to see what’s already out there. If, for example, you find your invention in the search results then that’s patented. Otherwise, you can create your own patent. An attorney needs to be consulted, though, if you find related references but not the exact invention as what you’re planning.

Know that getting a patent can take two to three years, with the search of patent lasting about two weeks.

How can you get a trademark?

A trademark is your brand. It is the name, phrase or logo that your customers can identify you with. Even scents and sounds can be trademarked. A trademark is different from a domain name or a business name registration. Even if you own a domain name that does not mean it’s trademarked to you. The same goes with your business name registration.

Only with federal registration can you get a trademark, and you can use the definitive TM symbol that would tell other companies that your logo, name or phrase is protected. After five years of owning the trademark, you can already make it incontestable by filing the appropriate documents. You will also have the ability to sue others for trademark infringement.

How do you get a copyright?

Earlier, I mentioned that a trademark pertains to the name, phrase or logo that customers can readily associate with you. But a copyright is much more inclusive in the sense that it covers books, songs, movies, web content, photography and choreography too.

Unlike trademarks, copyrights are often registered at the Library of Congress. They last the lifetime of the author plus another 70 years.

If you have more questions about intellectual property, consult an attorney or a licensed professional.

About the Author

“Murray Priestley has 25 years of commercial and asset management experience having served in board, CEO and senior executive positions with a number of global public and private companies.”