Suppose you have come up with a great idea for a new business. It is creative, unique, and entirely new. This business idea might be a manufacturing idea for a new and innovative product or maybe a branding idea or a jingle that you can see going national or even worldwide.
Perhaps it is a novel that is destined to be a bestseller or a piece of art that is so new and different that it may be the most unique piece of art this century has ever seen. Maybe, you and your team have created a treatment for a chronic condition that will provide relief for thousands of people. Whatever your business idea is, it is imperative that you take measures to protect it.
Getting Credit for Your Work
Musicians, writers, artists, scientists, engineers, and other creatives all come up with original, important content. To avoid the disappointment and frustration of having an idea stolen, one must take measures to see that it is protected. Different varieties of ideas are protected in different ways. The four basic ways that intellectual property is typically protected are as follows:
- Trade secrets
The method of protecting your business ideas varies depending on the type of idea you are protecting. Some ideas can be covered by more than one method. The expense associated with each type of protection will range in cost.
Typically, trade secrets are not very expensive to protect from being stolen or used. Below are some of the ways that trade secrets work and how the designation can protect your intellectual property:
- There are no time limits on trade secrets. Patents are available for 20 years, but trade secrets are not on the clock as long as the correct process is followed to preserve trade secret rights.
- It is inexpensive since no maintenance fees or registration costs are associated with trade secrets. Although, there are times when the measures taken to keep the trade secret secure and confidential require extensive security, which can be expensive.
- Your company can be made much more profitable with protected trade secrets. This means that competitors cannot copy your manufacturing process, the formula you use, the technology specific to your products, or the techniques used to create your products.
- To generate interest in your product, you can use the idea of trade secrets to get people interested. For instance, McDonald’s special sauce, KFC’s original fried chicken recipe, and the secret recipe for Coca-Cola are all closely guarded, and we all know about them, meaning their trade secrets have captured our attention.
When protecting a trade secret, you may want to consider nondisclosure agreements to protect your trade secrets from employees sharing them and to keep them confidential.
Copyrights are an inexpensive way to protect intellectual property as well. Registering a copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office can cost a mere $45 to file. Working with an experienced business attorney to register your copyright for you will ensure the process is handled correctly.
Copyrights are popular with content creators, authors, and artists because they give the creator the right to control how their work is reproduced, sold, and / or published. A copyright can also protect the manner of distribution of the work. Copyrighted work is a form of intellectual property that is a concrete medium.
If you choose not to register your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office, that does not mean it is not protected. Common law rights may still apply. But, registering the copyright is recommended to provide more all-encompassing protections for your work so it is not illegally copied.
The following types of intellectual property are typically copyrighted:
- Renditions of music
If you are wondering how to protect your business idea from being stolen, you should probably consider trademarks. Trademark application and registration is typically more expensive than the first two options discussed above – copyrights and trade secrets – but, it will give you the very helpful ability to prohibit the use of your name, design, and / or expression that demonstrates the source or brand of your product or the service your product could offer.
To trademark an item, you must be able to prove it is different from any other trademarks the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has on file. Trademarks are used, for example, for business names and their original logos or slogans. The four levels of the spectrum of distinctiveness for trademarks are listed below:
- Fanciful – A fanciful or inherently distinctive trademark is automatically registrable
- Arbitrary – Words or images with a typical definition or meaning that are used or adopted as trademarks, because they are being used in connection with products or services unrelated to that typical definition or meaning
- Suggestive – A suggestive mark hints at the nature of a product or service or an attribute without actually describing the product or service
- Descriptive – These only describe the products or services to which they are applied; and, there needs to be more than a description to qualify for a trademark
Patents are the most expensive way to protect your intellectual property. They cover a number of different types of intellectual property. If keeping a trade secret quiet is going to be difficult, you may consider getting a patent on the idea for better security.
Though, it is important to note that patents are only good for 20 years, while trade secrets do not expire. Your patent would give you the right to deny others from making, selling, or using your concept. If your idea is new and is not an obvious idea, you can submit a patent application for it. This is best done with the help of an experienced business lawyer.
Submission requirements included in a patent application include:
- The intellectual property idea must be disclosed
- An oath or declaration
- The disclosed idea has to be a patent-eligible idea
- Filing, search, and examination fees
Contact Feldman & Feldman to Protect Your Business Ideas
Our Houston Business Litigation Attorneys at Feldman & Feldman, have experience protecting the intellectual property of others. If your business idea requires protection, speak to us as soon as possible. We will ensure that your trade secrets, patents, copyrights, and trademarks are rightfully secured.
Reach out today with questions that you may have about protecting your business idea. We can guide you through the legal process and protect your ideas and rights along the way.