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What constitutes intellectual property (IP) protection in today's innovative environment? There are multiple forms of protection, but few, if any, are iron-clad. In the following, we will examine various forms of IP protection that are designed to fit with projects that include innovative ideas, trade secrets, the unseen, and heretofore unknown. Before starting this examination, the best form of IP protection should be considered: your intellectual property attorney.

The knowledge and expertise held by an experienced IP attorney are probably more valuable than any other form of protection, simply because an IP attorney can utilize the most effective and sustainable tools to fit each specific type of IP. You will want to select an experienced IP attorney who can register patents and trademarks, as well as protect them in the years to come. Consider the various ways IP protection can be utilized for innovative purposes.

ip protection in today

Patents: Search, Patent Examination and IP Protection

When first considering registering a patent, one will want to carefully consider the extent of effort and time required to obtain one. This is not to suggest patents are impossible to secure, but the truth is that researching, making the application, and communicating with the patent examiner repeatedly while the patent is under review, usually takes at least three years in totality.

During this time span, innovators are building a business framework to support the patented item. Rarely do innovators have time to spend in patent search directories, application forms and communication with patent examiners. Some patent examiners will reject every patent claim in the first round of review, which lengthens the time the patent is in the review process. For each of these reasons, many innovators turn to IP attorneys to start and follow the patent process through to completion.

The patent protection offered by an IP attorney includes defending the patent if another entity uses it. This includes litigation and a demand for payment of monies lost in patent theft. IP attorneys have been known to secure millions of dollars for clients through the defense of a patent. For example, in 2003 Home Depot illegally copied a Christmas tree stand and sold it as a proprietary product. A federal jury in Sacramento, California gave the owner of the patented product almost 14M for the theft and loss of business caused by Home Depot.[1] An IP attorney handled the small business owner's case.

Trademarks:  Search, Approval and IP Protection

The initial search to determine that no other identical mark, symbol, logo or brand name is in use comprises the initial part of the trademark application. Following this, if the trademark is found to be unique, the application is completed and images are provided to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The instructions for the application include several requirements, but this process does not typically take as long as the patent process. The USPTO advises consumers that the approval or disapproval will take months. Again, this process is best left in the hands of an IP attorney because it is a lengthy and complex system.

Trademarks are seriously defended by IP attorneys because a brand name, symbol or logo is an identifying mark for major and small companies alike. The identifying mark must be aggressively defended if another company tries to use it as its own and an IP attorney with knowledge of this type of theft is usually engaged to defend the trademark. An IP attorney can also secure compensation for lost revenue, as well.

Copyrights: Registration, Library of Congress and IP Protection

To copyright one's music, written works, or artistic creations, the only requirement is to create it. To register the copyright for protection, one must work within the requirements of the Library of Congress and the R.R. Bowker Company.[2] The process requires an identification number (ISBN) which serves as an indicator of the owner of the material, art or music and clarifies who the copyright holder is in the event of a quest to find the copyright holder. An IP attorney can be beneficial in this regard due to the extensive amount of paperwork to be completed and filed with the Library of Congress.

Copyrights are not typically in danger of theft or infringement to the extent that patents and trademarks may be; however, this does not prevent music producers, artists, and literary agents from trying. In recent years, as downloading has become popular and digital works appear online, these types of copyrighted materials are at risk and need protection. IP attorneys can be on the alert and litigate, if needed, when copyrights are threatened or breached.

NDAs and Licensing Agreements: IP Document Prep and Protection

Non-disclosure agreements and licensing agreements are only effective if they are carefully constructed. Many, if not most, non-disclosure agreements found online are completely ineffective at protection because they are not specific enough or even germane to the works or products that require protection. An IP attorney can wade through the waters in preparing such documents and then defend them vigorously if needed.

Licensing agreements vary in language and content, depending on the industry in which they are utilized. Legal and financial agreements are meant to cover every contingency for licensing protection and defense. In addition, most licensing agreements include a renegotiate clause and a rescission clause that pave the way toward continued business or an amicable divorce between the licensor and the licensee. Neither non-disclosure agreements nor licensing agreements should be signed without an IP attorney to oversee the language and terms of use.

If you are operating in today's innovative environment, you are already aware of the opportunity to lose what you've created. Examples abound in the global news. However, if you haven't ever considered the initial application process, registration, and confirmation of your innovation, the time is right to consult with an experienced IP attorney who will assist in structuring protection and then defending it throughout its lifetime. Today's innovative environment demands IP protection. 

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