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Light Bulb

Representing Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses
throughout California

Intellectual Property:

Often times entrepreneurs and small business owners have wonderful ideas, but can those ideas be protected? Short answer is no. Intellectual Property (IP) law does not protect ideas but it does protect your version of the idea. 

IP law protects the rights of any person or business who creates artistic work. IP law allows you to control and benefit from your work and prohibits others from using or copying your work. 


What's artistic work? Music, literature, plays, discoveries, inventions, words, phrases, symbols and designs. 

Types of IP: Copyrights, Patents, Trademarks, Geographical Indications, Right of Publicity, Trade Secrets, and Trade Dress.

 What's the difference between all the types of IP? Each type of IP protects different artistic work for a certain amount of time. While your IP is protected no one else can use or copy your work otherwise they would be infringing on your IP rights. The best way to prevent infringement is to make sure you let the public know that your rights exist. This can include registering your IP with the Federal and State Governments, marking your work or advising of the pending registration such as "patent pending" or TM symbol. 

Copyrights: protect any expressive art such as writing, music, architecture, motion pictures and photography or any other means of artistic expression. The act of creation produces a copyright, that means you do not technically have to register your work with the Federal Government, but it is highly encouraged. Most copyrights are valid fro the creators lifetime plus 70 years after death. There are exceptions.

Patents: There are 3 types of patents, utility patent, design patent and plant patent. Utility Patents protect inventions that have a specific function like pharmaceuticals, machines, and technology. The protection lasts 20 years from date of filing with some exceptions.

Design Patents protect the way an object or product appears once it has been made, a new and nonobvious ornamental design for an article of manufacture. The design patent only protects the appearance of an article, but not its structural or functional features. You can obtain both a utility patent and design patent on the same invention if it's both new in tis utility and its appearance. The protection lasts 14 years after the patent was granted.

Plant Patents protect plant types that are asexually reproduced including hybrids, but will only be granted to a discovered plant if the discovery is made in a cultivated area. Unlike copyrights, you must apply to get a patent. The protection lasts 17 years after the patent was granted. 

Trademarks: protect the names, marks and slogans of products and companies. This is the most sought after IP right. The purpose of trademarks is to distinguish a product/company from its competitors and avoid consumer confusion. Once the mark is used you can use the TM symbol but for added protection its recommended to register your mark for added protection. The protection can last indefinite so long as it is renewed. 

Geographical Indications: identify a good/product as originating in the territory of a country, region or locality, where a given quality, reputation, or other characteristic of the good/product is essentially attributable to that geographical location. The most common examples are Florida for oranges, Idaho  for potatoes, Bordeaux for wine. The protection can last indefinite so long as it is renewed. 

Right of Publicity: the image and name of a person, including yourself, are protected but the protections vary by state. Essentially, these laws protect against the unauthorized use of their name or image for commercial purposes. In California, it is codified in California Civil Code Section 3344 which protects a person's name, voice, signature, photograph and likeness. The protection last your entire life plus 70 years.

Trade Secrets: protect sensitive business information like a marketing plan for a new product not yet in the market, customer list, or recipe. Essentially it protects information that gives your business an advantage over your competitors and, of course, must be a secret among your employees and not known to outsiders. The protection can last indefinite. 

Trade Dress: protects the promotional aspects of a product or service like the packaging of your product, so long as it is unique, product displays or even the decor of your theme park. It is highly recommend that you register your trade dress with the Federal Government. The protection can last indefinite so long as it is renewed.

My experience is they do what they say and they say what they do.

Stefan (Google Review)

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