The key types of enforceable protections in the field of IP Law are patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets.
Patents grant an exclusive right, for up to twenty years, over the invention described in the issued patent claim. A key aspect that distinguishes patents is that the published patent documentation must enable a consumer of ordinary skill to make and use the invention.
A trademark is a word, name, logo, symbol, device, or any combination thereof, that can be used as a method of identification for goods or services. Trademarks allow prospective customers to weigh the reputation of the producer of the goods or provider of the services they seek to purchase.
Copyrights protect original artistic works, such as literature, music, films, software, and architecture. They grant their authors the exclusive right to reproduce and distribute copies, prepare derivative works, as well as perform or display the work publicly. Copyright authors do not need to register their work in order to obtain the initial copyright, as they develop under common law, but they federally registered in order to enforce against infringement.
Trade secrets are legally protected pieces of information that companies keep internally for protection. These secrets include formulas, patterns, compilations, programs, devices, methods, techniques, processes, etc.
Patents are perhaps the biggest vehicle that IP law has to offer innovators seeking to create. Patents provide a powerful method of legal recourse, via federal protection, for innovators who have a unique invention that they want to protect as their own.
Additionally, having the exclusivity of a patent over your idea, product, or invention for 20 years is an incredible way to generate profits. This exclusivity allows you and your company to price your product or service with plenty of margin for profit, as there will literally be no competition.
These unique aspects of exclusivity and ownership encourage innovators to publicize the inventions that they dream up, transforming the world in the process.
JD Houvener, CEO and Founder of Bold Patents, says that “The world operates in an ecosystem that focuses on what’s new. The patent system is a singular platform that facilitates the publication of the latest and greatest inventions. Without the patent system, no method for centralizing, compiling, and categorizing the latest technologies would be published so freely.”
In this way, the patent system fosters innovation and creativity by getting the word out to the world about the latest inventions and gadgets. These inspire other innovators out there to see the existing model and come up with new and useful improvements- which they will later patent. The cycle continues on and on, and our world sees great progress as a result.
Trademarks signify brands to consumers, and they can last as long as a company lasts. Trademarks and patents work together to foster innovation. When a company publicizes and patents its innovations, it uses its trademark when it markets and sells the invention to consumers.
Sometimes, the trademark itself is so powerful that the company has the freedom to innovate knowing that its customers will trust its judgment. For example, think of Nike. Nike’s trademarks- the swoosh and the phrase “Just Do It” – are so powerful that when it comes up with a crazy new shoe that utilizes a brand new technology, customers will flock to purchase it because the brand is so popular and well-respected.
This brand value can provide a lot more confidence to inventors, especially when they are in the beginning stages of a product.
Creativity can also come about under the design of trademarks. There’s a lot that can be done artistically to create a lasting and memorable logo. Think of McDonald’s- when you picture the name, you picture golden arches.
Copyrights inspire creativity by giving artists the peace of mind that they are free to share their creative works without the constant fear of being ripped off or copied. This gives artists the incentive to be free to innovate, knowing that they have legal recourse if they are plagiarized.
Art is so important to society and culture. The copyright system allows artists to come forward with their creations for the betterment of society and the overall enjoyment of life. Without copyright law, people wouldn’t be able to make a living as an artist. Copyright law allows creatives to monetize their talents.
Trade secrets allow creativity to flourish within the metaphorical walls of a company. Companies with meaningful assets have new hires sign non-disclosure agreements (NDA) promising to keep their knowledge in-house and not publicize key pieces of information.
By facilitating an environment where everything is kept in-house, the employees within a company itself can be more creative. Internally, employees will be less afraid to speak their mind to share their crazy new idea, showcase their developments to one another, or push the needle at every turn. This spirit will flow through to developing a better and more efficient company culture as opposed to a more closed atmosphere. An open and transparent environment in a company encourages creativity, openness, and facilitates innovation.
Thomas Edison once said, “The value of an idea lies in the using of it.” Edison should know — as one of America’s most prolific inventors, he accumulated an astonishing 1,084 utility patents between 1869 and 1933.
Edison’s wise words emulate the sentiment that each invention has a value. The more daring inventors who wish to give their idea the greatest level of value make their idea become a reality, turning it into a tangible product that may make the world a better place. IP law protects these inventions and encourages more innovators to come forward and transform the world.
Carly Klein is a law student at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. A graduate from Boston University with a B.A. in Political Science & Philosophy, she has experience in marketing, communications, and sales. She is a Los Angeles native and seeks to pursue a career in IP & Business Litigation.