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Patents, And Trademarks, And Copyrights... Oh, My!

Posted on in Intellectual Property

If you own a high-tech business owner in Silicon Valley, chances are that you have intellectual property that needs to be protected against infringement. In fact, the success of high-tech businesses is often directly tied to how well they have protected their inventions, ideas and technology from being stolen.

But if you are confused or overwhelmed by the intellectual property legal lingo, don't worry. Here is a brief overview of the various types of legal protections available:

Patents protect inventions

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office grants a patent to an inventor in order to preclude others from making, selling or using the invention for a certain length of time. There are three types of patents that can be granted: utility patents (which are the most common), design patents and plant patents.

Patents do not arise naturally, they must be applied for. An invention must be "novel" and "nonobvious" in order for a patent to be granted. Utility patents must also be useful. Patents can be granted for many things, including: computer software and hardware, drugs, and chemical formulas and processes.

Trademarks protect brands

Trademark rights protect others from using a word, name, symbol or device that you use to distinguish your goods or business. Trademarks don't prevent other people from selling the same product or service as you, they just prevent people from using a confusingly similar "mark."

Trademarks can be legally registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Copyrights protect creations

A copyright grants the creators of "original works" (such as art, literature, music, film and television) the exclusive right to reproduce the work, create derivative works, distribute the work, perform the work publicly, and display the work publicly.

The owner of the copyright also has the ability to give others permission to do all of the activities listed above. A copyright doesn't protect an idea, concept or fact that is contained in the original work, it only applies to the "form of material expression."

For information on protecting your business' assets, specifically, consider meeting with one of our experienced San Jose business law attorneys.

State Bar of California NYSBA Santa Clara County Bar Association US Department of Homeland Security US Court of Appeals US Patent and Trademark Office
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