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What to Do With Your Great Idea - Should You Trademark, Copyright or Patent?

April 10, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 156

When you have a great idea your next questions should be "Do I Trademark, Copyright or Patent my idea?" The answer to that question depends on what you want to protect, and an attorney who specializes in this area can help you with this decision. Let's start by grouping these into some basic categories - The Word Smith, The Author, and The Inventor.

For the Word Smith or Marketer

Are you that talented person who has the ability to come up with a unique, compelling name for a product and make it meaningful and relevant to the average person? Or perhaps you can cleverly string together words or phrases to make a product stand out from the others, such as a mission statement or tagline. Maybe you prefer to make your point visually through a design or symbol instead. Or, to really make the product stand out, you create a combination of names, phrases, designs or symbols that are distinct to that product.

If any of this sounds like you, consider applying for a trademark. A trademark will identify and distinguish your product from that of another, and prohibit anyone else from using it without your express, written permission.

But what if your product is not a product at all but instead a service, yet you still can relate to the description above? Then you will need a service mark. A service mark is the same thing as a trademark, except that it applies to a service rather than a product.

For the Author

Have you written a description of your product or service offering, an article or a book, or a journal entry or research study? Did you compose a score for a singer, band, play or movie? Did you draw up blueprints for new construction, or write a new computer program?

Published or unpublished, these works are vulnerable without the protection of a copyright. A copyright protects original literary, dramatic, musical, artistic and intellectual works from duplication, unauthorized use, production and display.

Next question - did you create these works for your product or service independently or in partnership? If you are working jointly with another individual or organization, you and that individual or organization are considered co-owners of the copyright for that particular work.

Lastly, were these works created for hire? In other words, were you hired to create these works as an employee or contractor for another individual or organization? If so, the author of such works is considered to be the employer or contracting entity - whether created individually or jointly, you are not considered to be the author or co-author in this case.

Regardless of who created the work or under what circumstances, the outcome of the copyright remains the same - these works are protected from unauthorized use.

For the Inventor

Did you invent something new and cool? If so, patent it before someone beats you to it! A patent protects your invention - it prevents anyone else from making it, using it or selling it in the U.S. It also prevents others from importing your invention into the U.S. for the same purposes.

Now that we've established the importance of patenting your invention, let's take a look at the type of patent you need.

Did you invent a new mechanical process, machine or machinery part, or composition of matter? If so, you need a Utility Patent.

Do you consider yourself more of an artistic inventor? For example, did you invent an original ornamental design for jewelry, furniture, or even a beverage container or computer icon? Apply for a Design Patent to protect your creation.

Lastly, did you create, or discover and asexually produce a new variety of plant? You guessed it, you need a Plant Patent.

Can't decide which category your invention falls into? Not to worry - check out patent regulatory agency resources to determine which type of patent(s) to apply for.

Also, speed is becoming more important as the United States moves from a "first to invent" patent system to a "file system." Under the old method, you had first dibs on the patent if you could prove you invented it first. Under the newer system, the patent goes to the inventor who wins the paperwork race.

In summary, there are clear differences in trademarks, copyrights and patents. Before you begin the application process, decide what it is you want to protect, and what category it falls within. And, most importantly, do not delay! Concept or reality, published or unpublished - your work is not legally yours until it is protected! Here is where an attorney skilled in intellectual property can help protect what is yours. Your creative abilities are your source of income. Ensure that your ideas and creativity are legally protected by working with an attorney who has the experience and expertise to keep your ideas and creativity making money for you!

Saliterman & Siefferman of Minneapolis, MN specialize in business law cases such as intellectual property.

Source: EzineArticles
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