Intellectual Property Law Explained | Copyrights, Trademarks, Trade Secrets, & Patents

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Hi, everyone. I’m attorney Aiden Durham with 180 Law Co. in Denver, Colorado, and you’re watching All Up in Yo’ Business. (cheerful guitar instrumental) On this episode of All Up in Yo’ Business, we’re gonna talk about intellectual property, break down the four different types of intellectual property, I’m gonna tell you about why it matters, and why you should care. Before we get into it, please be sure to like, subscribe, and share, and check the description for a link to download my free guide, “Three Tips for Trademarking Your Brand.

” All right, so intellectual property. What is it? It’s an intangible asset, it’s a thing, it’s a piece of property, like any other property. When we’re talking about intellectual property of a business, this is an asset of the business, just like the business’s real estate, or equipment, or any other asset they may have. Intellectual property is one of those assets.

There are four different types of intellectual property. Copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets, and patents.A copyright is a form of protection that’s provided to the authors or creators of any original works of authorship. In other words, copyrights protect creative works, works of art, literary works, things like that. Typically, a copyright will last for a pretty long time.

In most cases, the copyright lasts for the entire life of the author, plus 70 years after the author dies. And when I say author, that means whoever created the thing, whoever created the work that the copyright exists in. Once that person dies, then the copyright exists for 70 years following their death. Now, when we talk about copyrights, there are common law copyrights, and then there are federal registered copyrights. A copyright exists under common law as soon as you create that original piece of work.

So without doing anything else, if you paint a painting, or if you film a movie, or record a song, as soon as those things are created, the copyright exists under common law.And what that means is that no other person has the right to copy it. Copyright. It’s the right to copy the piece of work. And copy it, or distribute it, or modify it, or use it in other ways, those things, those rights apply to the copyright holder.

However, registering the copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office gives you another level of protection over your copyrighted work. And it also gives you additional rights in damages if there’s an issue of copyright infringement. So the things to know for copyrights is that it applies to original works of authorship.

Creative works, works of art, things like that. It lasts for the entire duration of the author’s lifetime plus 70 years. The second type of intellectual property is trademarks. A trademark is any word, symbol, design, device, or any kind of combination of those that are used to identify the source of goods or services. So when we think trademarks, we typically think of business names, business logos, things like that.

Things that we see and we know the source of that product or service.That’s a trademark. And a trademark can be, really, any thing that is used to signify the source of a good or service. So, again, this can be words, like a name, or symbols, like a logo, even designs, like trade dress is a trademark as well. Trademarks can also include sounds or smells.

Again, anything that is used as a source indicator for the goods or services is a trademark. And the trademark, having trademark rights is going to prevent your competitors from using the same or a similar trademark for same or similar goods or services, and a common misunderstanding with trademarks and trademark law is that a trademark gives you ownership over a word, or a design, or something.And that’s true, but only to an extent. With a trademark, you don’t have carte blanche blanket ownership over that trademark. Your rights really only any apply to how you use it in your goods and services.

So, if someone else wants to use a similar trademark for a completely unrelated business, or completely unrelated goods or services from how you’re using it, then that trademark rights and that trademark protection may not cover that additional use. So, the point is that the trademarks are really specific to how you use it, or how the trademark owner uses that trademark, rather than being just a blanket ownership of the word or the mark itself. Now, trademarks can potentially last forever. They can be indefinite. Once a trademark is registered, there are renewals that are due pretty much every 10 years, but as long as the trademark is continuing to be used and those renewal filings are made, then the trademark can last indefinitely.

And, again, just like with copyrights, trademark rights exist under common law, as well. As soon as you start using a trademark in commerce for your goods and services, under common law, you have trademark ownership and trademark rights typically in your geographic area and specific to the goods or services that you’re using. So those rights do already exist, but they’re much narrower and much weaker than the rights that would exist if you had a federally-registered trademark with the U.S.PTO, the U.

S. Patent and Trademark Office. So when we talk trademarks, we’re talking words, symbols, designs that are used to signify the source of a good or service. A lot of times there can be overlap between copyrights and trademarks because often a logo will have some artistic or design element to it that can be copyrightable as well. But at their core, copyrights and trademarks are two very different things.

The third type of intellectual property is trade secrets. This might sound a lot like trademarks, but trade secrets are actually quite different. A trade secret is any information of a business that provides some economic value to the business, but that’s not in the public domain and is generally kept secret. So trade secrets will often apply to things like, internal processes or systems, customer lists, formulas, or methods. A really common trade secret that you might think of is with KFC.

Their, you know, blend of 15 herbs and spices, or whatever it is. That blend is KFC’s trade secret.They don’t release that information. They try as best as they can to keep that a secret because it is a trade secret of theirs. A similar one would be, like, the formula for Coca-Cola.

I believe that’s a trade secret too. They don’t let that out, they don’t let a lot of people know about it. So, any form of information that has an economic value that you wouldn’t want other people to know about is generally gonna be a trade secret. The most important thing with trade secrets is that they are a secret. So, it can’t be a trade secret if it’s something that, you know, everyone knows about, or that people can find out about online.

So, like your prices. If you list your pricing on your website, then your prices aren’t a trade secret. But if you have some really novel or creative way, a formula or an algorithm that you use to determine your prices and that formula or that algorithm is something that you developed and you’re not telling anybody about it, and if other people found out about it, then, you know, they would be able to take advantage and use that to their economic value.So something like that, the algorithm that’s used to arrive at your prices, that might be a trade secret, but, again, only if it’s a secret and if you take reasonable steps to keep it a secret. And trade secrets can last forever, again, as long as they are kept a secret.

If a trade secret is released to the public and it’s no longer a secret, then it’s no longer a trade secret. And unlike copyrights, trademarks, and patents, which I’m about to talk about, trade secrets can’t be registered.There’s no federal register for trade secrets. And, in fact, that would be contrary to the purpose of a trade secret, of course. So the best way to protect your trade secrets is to do what you can to limit the number of people who are exposed to your secrets and take other reasonable steps, like using NDAs or confidentiality agreements to help preserve the secrecy of your trade secrets.

Finally, the last type of intellectual property is patents. I’m gonna start this off by letting you all know I am not a patent attorney, I don’t do any work with patents, and I know very little about patent law in particular. So if other questions arise about patents from this, don’t ask them to me ’cause I won’t know.So a patent is a property right that is only granted by the U.S.

By the U.S. PTO, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

There are no common law patent rights like there are with copyrights or trademarks. Generally, a patent is available to anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful process, or machine, or manufacturing, or something like that. So, really, an invention or a brand new development. There are different types of patents. There’s utility patents, and there’s design patents.

Generally, a utility patent is going to apply to how the thing works, whereas the design patent is going to apply to how the thing looks. And generally, the patent, this patent right, is going to give the owner or the patent holder the exclusive ability to make the invention or whatever the thing is that is patented. The owner is the only one who can make it, who can manufacture it, who can sell it, or who can use it. So, having a patent gives you the exclusive right to use and sell, license, distribute that invention or that new creation in whatever way the patent holder wants. As far as registration of all those things, again, copyrights are registered with the U.

S.Copyright Office. There’s this big idea and notion of mailing things to yourself in order to get copyright protection. I’ve heard of this a lot with musicians, and with authors, and writers. If you mail something to yourself, you get that stamp from mailing and that gives you, like, an official date of your copyright.

And that does something to give you better copyright protection. That’s, for the most part, complete garbage and totally useless. There’s no law or anything that says by mailing something to yourself, you now have a copyright. Really, that’s just not a thing. Trademarks and patents.

Those are both gonna be registered through that U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the U.S. PTO.

Now, you can do a state-level trademark registration, which is not the same as a federal. If you register your trademark at the state level, that’s only going to apply to your use in the state. And for most states, my understanding, at least with how Colorado trademark registration works, it’s really not giving you any additional rights other than what you already have under common law. So, in my opinion, at least, state-level trademarks are kind of useless.This might be different in other states, but I’m pretty sure most states don’t really give you any additional statutory protection or any higher, real level of protection by doing a state-level trademark.

And then finally, trade secrets. Those aren’t registered anywhere, you don’t wanna register them anywhere, you don’t want to let people know about them in general. So, the best way to register your trade secret is to put it in a safe, lock it up, and throw away the key.Just kidding, of course. Don’t throw away the key.

Some trade secrets you can actually lock up, but keep them secret, protect them from being seen by people who don’t need to see them. So why is intellectual property important? Why does it matter to your business? Like I said in the beginning, intellectual property is an asset. It’s an asset of your business.

So if you are looking to get a business loan, or if you’re looking for investors, or if you’re looking to sell your business, intellectual property is part of the value of your business, part of the assets that give it value.And if you don’t take steps to protect your intellectual property, if you don’t care to enforce your trademark rights, if you’re not registering your trademark, if you’re not taking steps to protect the property, then the value of it goes down. Intellectual property also plays a big role in licensing. So if you’re developing courses or trainings, or something that you will license out and allow other people to use, then the intellectual property is a big part because that’s typically what you’re licensing out, is intellectual property.So if you don’t have it properly protected, then that could come back to bite you.

And also, like with a trademark, registering a trademark kind of automatically increases the value of that trademark because it’s registered exclusively for your use in the U.S. So that’s why intellectual property is so important. And if you don’t take the proper steps to protect your intellectual property, then you really are damaging the value of your business and you’re damaging the potential prospect for your business’s success. Of course, as with everything, it’s always important to talk to an attorney when it comes to your intellectual property and making sure it’s protected.

So if you have any kind of intellectual property, copyrights, trademarks, patents, trade secrets, you wanna speak with an attorney, consult with a lawyer for help on what you need to do to make sure you’re properly protecting it and taking all those rights steps to preserve the value and the integrity of your intellectual property.That’s all for this episode, folks. Drop a comment below, let me know what you think, and don’t forget to check the description for a link to download my free guide on three tips for trademarking your brand.

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