Intellectual property (IP) refers to the creations of the mind, such as inventions, artistic works, designs, symbols, names, and images used in commerce. Yet IP is about more than your product specifications or your client list---it’s about your business’ success. All of the hard work that you put into developing your brand, slogan, product line and client base is what sets you apart, which is why it’s important to protect your intellectual property and give your company the best chance to grow and thrive.
In order to fully understand what IP is, you have to understand property rights in general. As a property owner, you have specific rights. If someone takes or occupies your property, you can get the police or the courts involved to get it back. Just as property rights protect your places or things, it also includes that which is not tangible, such as brand names used in commerce and expert knowledge.
Intellectual property laws allow owners of patents, trademarks and copyrighted works to benefit from their work or investment in a creation. In fact, the U.S. Constitution recognizes the importance of intellectual property, and grants Congress the power to pass intellectual property laws to “promote the progress of science and the useful arts.”
As for intellectual property itself, there are three recognizable forms: copyright, trademark, and patent. Below you’ll find a short definition of each:
- Copyright: The exclusive right to use and distribute an original work
- Trademark: The exclusive right to use a mark, such as a recognizable sign, design, or expression, in commerce in connection with specific goods and services
- Patent: The exclusive right granted to an inventor to manufacture, use, or sell an invention for a certain number of years
Aside from those categories, there is much more that makes up intellectual property rights. A trade secret, which is a commercially valuable and protected secret, is backed up by trade secret laws. The government helps owners protect their trade secrets through criminal laws. Expert knowledge can also be viewed as intellectual property. Companies can gain exclusive rights to expert knowledge by signing contracts. Additionally, customer lists and user interfaces can all be intellectual property.
If you or your company needs help protecting your intellectual property, contact our Nashville business attorneys at Collins Legal today to learn how we can help. Call (615) 610-0728 or contact us online.