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A Quick Overview of Intellectual Property

The world of digital marketing has placed us in a time where content creation is constant. With all the photos, videos, and more popping up, conversations around copyrights and trademarks have skyrocketed. To understand what that means, let’s get an overview of intellectual property.

At Angie Avard Turner Law, LLC, I have the privilege of helping you protect what you create. From songs to widgets to logos, your work deserves protection. Reserve your time to talk today.

A Beginner’s Overview of Intellectual Property

The notion of private property and the rights that go with ownership have been around for centuries. Initially, the idea of property primarily referred to physical items or land. It quickly grew to encompass intellectual property rights, as well.

Today, intellectual property (IP) is a massive, broad category that includes all “creations of the mind.” That’s a lot of stuff, right? From practical inventions to virtual web graphics, pop songs to perfect pasta sauce, a lot can fit under the big top of intellectual property.

Written and recorded songs fall under the umbrella of intellectual property.

IP can cover things such as:

  • Photos

  • Paintings

  • Videos

  • Screenplays

  • Clothing Designs

  • Recipes

  • Inventions

  • Processes

  • Slogans

  • Code

  • Apps

  • Software

  • Hashtags

For example, humming a few bars of a song you’re trying to compose isn’t complete or tangible. But when it’s finished and recorded or written out on paper, you have a protectable creation.

How Do You Protect Intellectual Property?

Please humor me a moment while I pull out my attorney soapbox. Your intellectual property is arguably the single most crucial facet of your business. Unfortunately, it is also probably the most neglected. You need to protect your IP. This should be non-negotiable.

(I will now step down from my soapbox and put it away for the time being. It may reappear.)

In all seriousness, businesses and individuals routinely neglect the opportunity to protect their intellectual property rights. Small businesses, in particular, tend to think that things like copyrights and trademarks are only for big companies. However, the truth is that if you are a creator or if you own a business, you have IP to protect.

The law breaks intellectual property into four primary categories.

1. Copyrights

Any overview of intellectual property must include copyrights.

A copyright is the form of IP that creatives most often recognize. It is legal protection designed for authorship, and items such as books, music, graphics, and maps fall under this category.

The author of the work owns the right to use or duplicate it. (The law uses the term “author” for all creators of copyrighted material.) Additionally, they have the right to determine who else may use it. Generally speaking, once an idea is in a tangible, complete form, it is a protected creation.

For any works created after January 1, 1978, the copyright lasts for the author’s life plus 70 years. They don’t renew. Works copyrighted before that date may be eligible for renewal.

2. Patents

Patents cover the realm of inventions, so they are common in tech and manufacturing. Individuals or businesses can apply for patents for a variety of things:

  • Designs

  • Processes

  • Machines

  • Parts

  • Improvements

A utility patent covers mechanisms and uses and typically expires after 20 years. Design patents protect the look or aesthetic of an item and generally expire after 14 years.

3. Trademarks

Logos and insignia are items that you can protect by trademark.

Trademarks are all about recognition. Generally, a trademark is an insignia, symbol, or phrase that marks a particular brand. For example, the Nike name and swoosh are trademarked intellectual property belonging to the shoe giant.

Interestingly, trademarks are the oldest form of IP protection, dating back to the ancient world. Potters and other tradespeople marked their work to signify who was the creator.

Trademarks are typically eligible for renewal after the first five years and then every ten years following.

4. Trade Secrets

Unlike the other types of IP, trade secrets are not public. But I bet you could guess that from the name. Trade secrets hold value to the business owner that would diminish if the IP became public. Recipes, patterns, and designs are common types of trade secrets.

There are other forms of IP protection that are less common. For example, geographical indications protect names of places integral to the product, such as Champagne.

What Are the Risks of Not Protecting Your IP?

Failing to protect your intellectual property can cost you a lot of money.

Intellectual property theft costs the US up to $600 billion every year. That’s an astonishing amount! If you don’t protect your creations, ideas, and other IP, you run the risk of being part of that number.

There is no shortage of people looking to make a buck off of someone else’s innovation. This is why I always remind people that if it’s worth creating, it’s worth protecting.

Your work, time, and money can all disappear if someone steals, divulges, or mimics your intellectual property. Even if you have legal recourse, the cost of defending yourself can be hundreds of thousands of dollars or more.

IP in the Digital World

Our modern online life has opened up significant opportunities for IP theft and infringement. Images, songs, poems, and videos can go viral within hours or even minutes. This nearly immediate worldwide circulation makes it difficult to prove ownership. Getting IP protection in place before releasing your work is the safest option.

Further complicating things is the potential need to protect your IP outside the United States. Depending on your business, you may want to consider seeking copyright, trademark, patent or other protection in different countries.

An overview of intellectual property has to include a discussion of international protection.

Professional Counsel Is Crucial

The moral of this story is, protect your intellectual property, and do it with a professional. Intellectual property law is vast and complex. Your work deserves excellent legal protection, so don’t rely on discount websites. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that option will adequately cover your IP.

If you’re ready to pursue copyright, trademark, patent, or other intellectual property protection, let’s connect. This area of the law falls under federal statutes, which means that I can help anyone in the US from my office here in Georgia.

Although I’m an attorney by trade, I’m also a creative maker. I understand and appreciate how much you pour into your business, and I want to help you protect it. Reserve your time with me, and let’s get started.

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