Copyrights, Patents, and Trademarks
- Helpful Links for Business Owners
- Copyrights, Patents, and Trademarks
- Basic Business Structures
- Employment Visas for Immigrant Employees
- Purchasing and Selling a Business
- Starting a Business
A trade secret is any piece of information used by a business that isn’t known to the general public, including formulas, business plans, designs, and procedures. State and federal laws protect trade secrets when other areas of intellectual property law don’t offer adequate protection. An example is the formula for Coca-Cola, which remains a secret despite being over 100 years old. This formula cannot be patented because it is considered a recipe, but it can be protected under trade secret laws.
Trade secret law, however, does not provide absolute protection. While the law prohibits competitors from stealing business secrets, they may be figured out by using reverse engineering. Secrets discovered via reverse engineering and then made public lose their protection.
A copyright is a form of legal protection for original works of authorship. Screenplays, music, employee handbooks, and commercial brochures are examples of work that is eligible for copyright protection, giving owners the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, publicly perform, and display their work. Legal protection is extended as soon as the work is created, though registration provides the copyright owner with the advantage of establishing public awareness of its use.
What is a copyright?
The owner of a registered copyright enjoys the ability of blocking the unauthorized copying or public performance of a work protected by copyright. Depending on how old a work is, whether or not copyright was renewed, when the work was published (if at all), and whether or not it is a work for hire, the U.S. copyright term for a work may be 28 years, 56 years, the life of the author plus 50 years, 75 years from the publication date, or 100 years from the date of creation. These terms are much longer than the 17-year or 20-year term of a U.S. utility patent.
Patents & Trademark
A patent for an invention is the grant of a property right to the inventor issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Patent holders have the right to exclude others from making, using, or selling the invention described in the patent deed. The intent of patents is to give the developer of a new product time to recover development expenditures and startup costs without having to fight competition.
What is a trademark?
A trademark includes any word, name, symbol, or device or any combination used or intended to be used in commerce to identify and distinguish the goods of one manufacturer or seller from goods manufactured or sold by others and to indicate the source of the goods. In short, a trademark is a brand name.
What is a service mark?
A service mark is any word, name, symbol, or device or any combination used or intended to be used in commerce to identify and distinguish the services of one provider from services provided by others and to indicate the source of the services.
What is a certification mark?
A certification mark is any word, name, symbol, or device or any combination used or intended to be used in commerce with the owner’s permission by someone other than its owner to certify regional or other geographic origin, material, mode of manufacture, quality, accuracy, or other characteristics of someone’s goods or services or that the work or labor on the goods or services was performed by members of a union or other organization.
What is a collective mark?
A collective mark is a trademark or service mark used or intended to be used in commerce by the members of a cooperative, an association, or other collective group or organization, including a mark which indicates membership in a union, an association, or other organization.