What Steps Should You Take to Protect Your Intellectual Property?
If you have not already done
so, the first step is to identify the intellectual property that you own
and assess its importance. An “IP Audit” can be either informal or formal
(i.e., by engaging an intellectual property specialist).
The trademarks and copyrights
that are important to you or your company should be registered with the
appropriate governmental body and the ideas, inventions, formulas,
know-how, programs processes, and research and development that are
important to you or your company should either be patented (if deemed
likely to be patentable) or protected as trade secrets.
Although registration is not
required to establish ownership rights in a copyright or trademark
(copyright exists from the moment a work is fixed in a tangible form and
trademark rights are created from the moment a mark capable of
distinguishing a product or service is used commercially, registration
is advisable to ensure full protection of one’s rights.
For example, a copyright
registration is a prerequisite to filing a suit, and although a
copyright may be registered on an expedited basis, certain damages are
not available for acts that occurred prior to registration. While
registration is not a prerequisite to filing a trademark claim, a
federal trademark registration is evidence of the owner’s exclusive
right to use the mark throughout the United States on or in connection
with the goods or services for which the registration has been granted.
Without a federal registration a trademark is protected only in those
jurisdictions in which it is being used in commerce.