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Protecting intellectual property

Understanding the options for protecting their intellectual property may help businesses safeguard the intangibles that make their companies special.

Whether they offer products or services, businesses in Oregon and throughout the U.S. often trade on creations of the mind. To start their own company, better compete within the market or for any other number of reasons, other businesses may attempt to use these inventions, symbols, literary and artistic works, and other such creations for themselves. Referred to as intellectual property, paths exist for the protection of such inventions and innovations.

Knowing the options available to them to protect those intangibles developed through the human intellect that differentiate their companies from their competitors may benefit businesses just starting out and long-established.

What is a patent?

Patents provide intellectual property protection for inventions. This includes new technical solutions to problems and products or processes that offer a new way of performing a task. When businesses and inventors protect this type of intellectual property with a patent, it prevents others from commercially making, using, distributing or selling the invention without their consent. Should patent infringement occur, patent owners may seek court intervention to stop the others from profiting off their creations. Upon the expiration of a patent, however, the invention goes into the public domain other businesses may copy, reproduce or otherwise use the invention to their benefit.

What is a copyright?

Protecting both unpublished and published writings, copyrights safeguard original works of authorship. For instance, authors may seek a copyright to protect musical, literary and dramatic works including songs, movies, novels or poetry, architecture and even computer software. Business owners should keep in mind, though, that a copyright does not safeguard ideas, facts, methods of operation or systems.

Literary and other such artistic works receive protection through copyright law from the moment of their creation; writers and creators do not have to take any additional steps. Should someone wish to bring legal action for alleged copyright infringement, however, they must formally register their works. Taking the steps to register a copyright before any disputes may help make the work a matter of public record and provide more substantial grounds for protection.

What is a trademark?

From business and product names to slogans and logos, businesses use certain marks to identify themselves and their products, as well as to differentiate themselves from their competitors. By registering trademarks, business owners may help prevent others from using similar signs to market their products of lesser quality. Businesses may seek trademark protection for marks such as a combination of letters, words or numerals and drawings, three-dimensional signs or symbols. Owners of trademarks may take legal action against counterfeiters or others who use their marks without permission.