Intellectual Property – copyrights, Patent & Trademark

Protect Your Intellectual Property With Copyrights, Patents and Trademarks


Any business idea, process, innovation or design, how much ever unique, can be copied, replicated, sold for profit, and claimed by others for their business interests. All intellectual creations should be protected through laws that prevent individuals, other than the owners of the creation, from using it. These laws allow the innovators to reap the benefits of their hard work that went behind in creating the original work. Without these laws of copyrights, patents, and trademarks, businesses would be in the chaotic state and ever-defensive mode.


Copyrights; Patents; Trademarks; Intellectual Property; Electronic Filing System

At a Glance

1. Introduction

2. How do entrepreneurs protect their ideas?

3. PATENTing your innovation

4. Process for Patent Application and Maintenance

5. Make a mark with TRADEMARKS

6. Trademark Application and Maintenance Process

7. Claim Your Right to Copyright

8. Copyright Registration and Maintenance Process

9. Legal Discourse

10. Famous IP Infringement Cases

Protect Your Intellectual Property With Copyrights, Patents and Trademarks

“How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life” changed the life of Kavya Vishwanathan from being a young Indian American novelist who got $500,000 contract from Little, Brown and Company while she was in high school, to be referred among the top cases of plagiarism today. This is one example of a breach of copyrights- a right that protects the ownership of any work in original. In the same way, patents and trademarks are also ways to claim ownership of innovations and designs.

Any creation of human intellect, which can be an invention, a trademark, design or the practical application of an idea, is called intellectual property (IP).  Intellectual property needs laws to prevent its misuse by others for their interests, mostly financial.

How do entrepreneurs protect their ideas?

Patents, trademarks and copyrights are the frontrunners in protecting your ideas and business interest. Many of you might be into developing new mobile apps and software applications.  Patents and trademarks help to prevent other parties from attempting to profit from your creations. You can protect your original work related to computer software, literary, drama, pictures, photographs, music, sculptural works, choreography, architecture, or audiovisuals by claiming copyrights.

Copyright is a legal right that grants the creator with exclusive rights to its use and distribution. However, copyright protection is not applicable to ideas or concepts because it protects the expression of an idea but not the idea itself.

Do you have something original or created by you in a tangible form! Bingo. Use a copyright symbol ©and it is copyrighted now.

Here are few exceptions to copyrights protection:

  • Titles, names, short phrases, slogans, which are covered under trademark protection
  • Mere listings such as ingredients and phone numbers
  • Works that contain no original authorship such as calendars or rulers

If someone uses, reproduces, distributes, displays or performs your copyrighted work without seeking permission, it is a case of copyright infringement.  

PATENTing your innovation

You may have a great idea and a business plan, and might be wondering to file a patent before a new player comes with something similar.

A patent helps to protect an invention, a product, or a new technical solution. The exclusive rights to decide how or whether the invention can be used by others are given to the patent holder.

According to Patent Laws, you can’t patent an idea for a business. However, you would be able to protect and patent a process. For example, the fast-food chain McDonald’s applied for a patent relating to the ‘method and apparatus’ used to prepare the sandwich. The intellectual property rights’ helps McDonald’s hot deli sandwiches look and taste the same across its restaurants.

It’s not easy to patent an idea or invention. To fulfill the criteria of patentability, your idea or invention should be novel, non-obvious, original, involve inventive steps, and has industrial application.

Types of patents you may use in your business:

  • Design patent – If you have an idea of new, original and ornamental design, apply for a design patent to protect your designs. If you are doing so, the patent gives you the monopoly on selling, making copies or preparing derivatives for 14 years.
  • Utility patent – You may be eligible for a utility patent, if you have any invention or discovery of process, the machine, and composition of matter or article of manufacture. It is used to protect the structure and function of your invention. The legal right to exclude other parties to use your IP without authorization is given to you for 20 years.

If you are sure that your idea or invention qualifies for a patent, file an application that includes patent claims to United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) using Electronic Filing System. It is recommended to hire a patent attorney who is well experienced to help you in precise documentation such as drafting strong patent claims and to make sure that the necessary filing requirements are met. An examiner would be assigned to review the contents of the application. After verifying that your application is satisfactory and meet the required standards, you would receive approval.

Process for Patent Application and Maintenance

Before applying for a patent know the answers to these FAQs:

  • Who can apply for a patent?
  • What can and cannot be patented?
  • How do I know if my invention is patentable?
  • How long does patent protection last?
  • How much does it cost to get a patent?

Make a mark with TRADEMARKS

You might be planning for a new business and might have selected a name and logo for your company. Protect your company’s name and logo by registering as a trademark. Before filing an application, find out if the name and logo are unclaimed because trademark infringement may cost you millions.

Trademark is a distinctive sign or logo that helps to identify certain products or services of a particular individual or a company. It helps to prohibit others from offering the same service or product. The trademark is acceptable only if it is original, distinctive, and non-descriptive. The exclusive rights to a trademark are given to the owner for 10 years after which it should be renewed.

Firstly, get ready to apply for trademark by selecting a mark and mark format, identifying goods and services to which the mark will apply, searching the databases to know if anyone has claimed the trademark rights on the same wording or design, and selecting proper filing basis. Next, prepare and submit your application through the Trademark Electronic Application System to United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)

After registering your mark with PTO, you should use the TM symbol next to your mark.

Trademark Application and Maintenance Process

Claim Your Right to COPYRIGHT

Let’s understand how you can copyright your work …..

Firstly, perform copyright registerability assessment and if the results are positive proceed with the application process for copyright registration. Then get your copyrights registered with U.S Copyrights office by filing an online application along with correct fee and copies of your work

Copyright Registration and Maintenance Process

Legal discourse

Patent lawyers or attorneys have specialized qualifications and knowledge on matters related to patent law and practice. They stand for you in procuring the patent and thereby protect the rights of your invention. As applying for a patent is a cumbersome process, it is always recommended to hire a patent attorney to file the patent on your behalf. A patent attorney makes a preliminary evaluation of patentability, which includes determining if the invention qualifies for patent and whether the patent granted is broad enough in its coverage.

Do you know about these IP infringement cases?

1. Apple vs. Samsung – Apple claimed that Samsung infringed protected designs and features of its Smartphones and tablets under Copyright Infringement Law. Later, Apple won the battle and Samsung was ordered to pay Apple $930 million for the damages.

2. Pharrell and Robin Thicke’s song “Blurred Lines” vs. Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up” – Music world is not new to copyright infringement. The two songwriters Pharrell and Robin Thicke’s were found to be guilty of copying Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up” in the song “Blurred Lines” and had to pay $7.3 million as compensation to Gaye’s children.

3. Apple vs Microsoft- The tech giants’ bone of contention was the graphical user interface (GUI) as both wanted to own it. Apple wanted to stop Windows from a becoming a major operating system, and so filed a case against Microsoft in 1988 which lasted for six long years. Apple’s case included 189 contested visual displays that violated its copyright. However, the court found that 179 of the 189 disputed displays were covered by the existing license. The Microsoft won the lawsuit in 1993.

4. James Dyson vs Hoover- The technology in question, in this case, was the use of a bagless vacuum cleaner which uses two cyclones. This technology was patented by Dyson; Hoover infringed the patent by using the Tripple Vortex technology that recirculated dusty air between three cyclones and did not filter it. The court ruled against Hoover for this patent infringement.

5. Gucci vs Guess-In 2009, Gucci and Guess got entangled in a legal battle on five Gucci trademarks which were supposedly copied by Guess. At the end, Gucci received the damages of $4.7m against the $221m claimed.

6. Apple vs. Smartflash – Apple was accused of willfully infringing the patented inventions of Smartflash in iTunes software and paid more than $500 million to the damages.

7. Pfizer vs. Teva Pharma and Sun Pharma – Pharma industry is whacked with high-profile patent battles. Teva and Sun Pharmaceutical industries were sued for infringing on Pfizer’s patent for acid-reflux drug Protonix and were ordered to pay $2.15 billion to Pfizer as compensation.

8. Hershey Co. vs. Colorado Edible Pot Company- Hershey Co. sued Colorado edible pot company for making pot-infused edibles that resemble iconic Hershey Treats and asked them to recall or destroy the products from the market.

The final call

The intellectual property is a valuable asset for your business.It helps to protect your IP against infringement thereby preventing the replication of your work by potential competitors. It helps to earn recognition and benefits from what you have created. It fosters the innovation by incentivizing the entrepreneurs to take a forward step towards the new advancements.  It forms the vital part of your marketing or branding by ensuring the customers that the products or services are authentic and are of high quality.


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9. https://www.sba.gov/blogs/your-business-idea-patentable-guide-what-entrepreneurs-can-patent Accessed on 1st November 2015

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