OK, How Should I Protect my Amazing Idea?
You Need to Evaluate Your Invention As a Product, and Explore Multiple Ways It Can Be Protected
There are four basic types of intellectual property ("IP"):The four types of IP are patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets. Additionally, there are related protections.
o Patents: The two primary types of Patents can be a little confusing:
o (1) Utility Patents protect functional or structural aspects of inventions, and
o (2) Design Patents protect a product's ornamental designs -- it's look/appearance. Some states also have common law design rights.
o Trademarks identify the business that sells a good or a service with words and logos. Trade Dress is treated in the law as a quasi ('almost')-trademark.
o Trade secrets are just what they sound like - secrets used in the course of business to create a competitive advantage, such as a customer list, or supplier pricing.
o Copyrights protect literary, musical, & other 'artistic expressions' (stuff you see/hear).
Other intellectual property rights can be created with contracts (such as with Non-Disclosure Agreements / Confidentiality Agreements and Confidentiality Provisions
Examples of Products having IP: to Explain the Differences, and How They Work TogetherConsider Apple's iMAC with its clean, distinctive look and shape . . .
Utility Patent protection attaches to its circuits, computer chips and software.
Design Patent protection applies to its ornamental look--the shape of its display, and unique brushed-aluminum "form factor."
Trade Secrets protect the manufacturing process that allows the manufacturer to produce the computer at 85% of the nearest competitor's cost, and to Apple's supplier and distributor lists.
Trademark protection applies to the name of the company (Apple(R)) and to the computer (iMAC(R)) to identify their origin, as well as to Apple's famous logo.
Copyright protection would apply to the software on the hard drive, and to many screen images displayed by the computer.
The License Agreement you clicked when installing software also created IP -- a written contract.
Another example is a simple bottle of Coke . . .
A Design Patent originally protected the shape of the bottle.
Design Rights in common law continue to protect the bottle.
The formula for Coca-Cola is perhaps the world's most famous Trade Secret.
And Coke(R) and Coca-Cola(R) are registered Trademarks of Coca-Cola Bottling Company, Inc. (the business that sells Coca-Cola).
Coca-Cola is famous for its Santa-related Christmas advertisements that practically defined Americana for half a century. The next time you see one of these ads, check closely at the bottom and you will see that it is Copyright protected.
If you think Coke does not have patents, well, think again. The Coca-Cola Bottling Company owns thousands of patents related to vending machines, bottling machines, and software for validating cash and currency (among a dizzying array of innovations).
Quick Take Action Tip: Using the definitions and examples, identify the different types of protection that may apply to your idea.