Intellectual Property Tips

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How do you protect intellectual property?

Protecting Intellectual Property

Intellectual property is protected in one of four ways: patents, trademarks, copyright and trade secret.

Patents: A patent is a right granted by a government to an inventor. It gives the inventor the exclusive right, for a limited period, to stop others from making, using or selling the inventor's product without the permission of the inventor.

Trademark: A trademark is a name, symbol or other device that identifies a product, officially registered and legally restricted to the use of its owner or manufacturer.

Copyright: A copyright is a legal right granted to an author, composer, playwright, publisher, artist or distributor to exclusive publication, production, sale or distribution of a literary, musical, dramatic or artistic work.

Trade Secret: A trade secret is a secret formula, method, or device that gives one an advantage over competitors. While patents, trademarks and copyrights are legally filed for, the responsibility for protecting a trade secret rests solely on the owner or enterprise.

   
Why is intellectual property valuation important?

Intellectual Property Valuation

For a minimum of five years in a row, Coca Cola, Microsoft and IBM were named the top ranking brands in Business Week's Annual rankings. Valued at $70, billion $65 billion, $ 51 billion, these companies are expert at leveraging the value of their intellectual property into huge sums. With this example, it's ironic that most medium and small companies neglect to undergo a formal evaluation of their intellectual property.

An intellectual property valuation helps its owner make critical decisions about how to cost-effectively use their asset in the marketplace. Whether licensing or selling an IP asset or insuring and protecting it, without knowing its value, it's hard to know if you're entering into equitable deals.

   
What is intellectual property?

Intellectual Property, Defined

Intellectual property, as defined by Alex Poltorak, CEO of General Patent Corporation, “consists of products of the human mind and creativity that are protected by intellectual property law.”

Intellectual property has economic value – sometimes great economic value. Like tangible property, intellectual property, or IP, can be bought, sold, and rented. And it can be lost or destroyed through neglect or carelessness.

In today's knowledge-based economy, IP is often the single most important asset of an enterprise.

   
How much does an intellectual property attorney cost?

The Cost of Hiring an Intellectual Property Attorney

Hiring an intellectual property attorney to file for your patent can cost up to 10,000. While this figure may seem discouraging, you don't have to pay for the whole thing at once. Most patent attorneys allow their clients to pay fees as they become due, and many will write out an estimated timeline of events and fees.

If at all possible, hiring an intellectual property attorney is advisable. The intellectual property field is very specialized and a patent attorney will be able to make the strongest possible case for your patent.

   
What is the importance of Intellectual Property Management?

The Importance of Proper Intellectual Property Management

The management of intellectual property, once an arcane activity, can now make or break a company. The speed of innovation, globalization, and controversy within the patent establishment itself might indicate that it's time to place your intellectual properties in the hands of experienced specialists.

Our economy, now heavily dependent on knowledge-based industries such as software, telecommunications, biotechnology, and pharmaceuticals, has shifted the management of intellectual property center-stage. Since many of these knowledge-based industries create products that may be rendered obsolete quicker than products of the past, it's vital for companies to keep vigilant watch over their intellectual properties.

   
When is intellectual property licensing a good option?

The Pros of Intellectual Property Licensing

How to best profit from intellectual property is a tough issue – one that requires tremendous strategic thinking. Intellectual Property licensing can reap tremendous rewards for both licensor and licensee, and is an effective way for both companies to profit from their respective strengths.

For instance, a company that is great at development but lacks the resources and skill for marketing and distribution might make a good match with one whose weakness in research and development is more than made up for in their ability to aggressively bring the product to market. In many of today's competitive industries speed to market and breadth of distribution can not only generate tremendous revenue, but protection from the competition.

For many start-ups as well as independent inventors, intellectual property licensing is an ideal way to capitalize on intellectual property. The risks are relatively low if the rights are both well negotiated and monitored.

   
How can I fund my new product introduction?

Funding Your New Product Introduction

Often, one of the biggest obstacles inventors face in trying to bring their invention to new product introduction is funding. From patent and attorney fees to developing prototypes and marketing, it takes a considerable budget to bring an invention to fruition.

Community of Science (COS) has grants programs for research and development as does the Defense Department's SBIR and STTR programs, the Department of Energy (DOE) grants, the National Institute of Health grants, and SBA procurements and grants hot list.

Research any and all funding sources very carefully for both their legitimacy and to ensure you meet their guidelines.

If you wish to go the entrepreneurial route with your invention, funding for business start-ups include venture capitalists and the SBA.

   
How can infringement be turned into a positive?

Litigate or License?

Infringement lawsuits are expensive. The monetary cost and time commitment of litigation can wreak havoc with large companies, never mind the independent inventor or entrepreneur.

When a direct competitor might be infringing your patent, a more realistic and profitable approach might be to forge an intellectual property licensing agreement instead. Far less costly than litigation for your competitor too, they might welcome the opportunity to earn income through a licensing partnership than lose profits to attorneys or even lose their right to use the product at all.

   
Will mailing myself a registered letter establish my intellectual property rights?

Using an Inventor's Journal to Establish Intellectual Property Rights

In the United States, intellectual property rights go to the first to invent, not the first to file. So, in order to protect your invention for potential challenges, put your idea down in writing.

The best way to do this is to begin an inventor's journal. In your journal, describe your invention in words and pictures. Date all entries, and include calculations, observations, formulas, paid receipts and conversations. In addition to acting as a credible defense, your inventor's journal will be an asset to making progress on your invention as well. If two people have the same idea and both have journals, the one with the earliest beginning date will be considered the inventor.

Many people will tell you to mail yourself a registered letter in order establish legal proof of invention, but this will not hold any legal weight in court.

   
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Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.