You’ve built a better mousetrap, or you’ve written the great American novel…or maybe you’ve just spent a lot of mental energy creating, developing and establishing a new product or service, and the consumer recognition, or goodwill, that comes with it. How can you protect your efforts, so that someone else doesn’t reap all the benefit of your hard work? The answer—through the protections provided by patent, trademark, trade secrets, and copyright, collectively known as intellectual property law.
Though the term “intellectual property” is of modern coinage, the idea is not. In fact, the founding fathers thought that the encouragement of invention and creativity was so important that they included provisions in the Constitution requiring that laws be established to govern patents and copyrights.
GetLegal.com’s Intellectual Property Center addresses the broad spectrum of creative and inventive rights, providing information on the requirements for obtaining patent, trademark, copyright and trade secret protection, as well as the procedures for safeguarding your rights.
Federal copyright law protects original works of authorship, such as books, music, films, paintings and software, allowing the copyright owner to control the use and duplication of such works for a limited period of time.
Patent law provides a legal monopoly to the inventor of a useful product for a specific period of time.
Trademarks are designed to protect the goodwill of a business, and to prevent the likelihood of confusion among consumers. Trademark law allows the owner of a mark to limit the use of similar marks. A trademark may exist indefinitely, provided it is properly renewed.
Unlike copyrights, trademarks and patents, trade secrets are not protected by federal law. Most states have either adopted the Uniform Trade Secrets Act or formed laws that give trade secret protection.