Inventing 101 - Intellectual Property

Intellectual property? Do I need a patent, trademark, or copyright?

intellectual property
Do I need a copyright, patent, or trademark?. Getty Images

One of the most common questions that a newbie inventor has to ask is, "What do I need? Do I need a patent, trademark, or copyright?"

These are the three different types of what is called intellectual property. These are products that come from the creative mind. Intellectual property is imagination made real. Intellectual property is an asset just like your home, your car, or your bank account and there are ways to protect and profit from intellectual property by using a patent, trademark, or copyright.

 

Intellectual Property - Patent

Utility, design, or plant patents protect inventions and improvements to existing inventions. Inventions must be "things that have purpose" and not ideas or names. For example, I would patent my invention of an improved car tire that never goes flat.

 

Intellectual Property - Trademark

Trademarks are words, names, symbols, devices and images that represent products, goods, or services. Trademarks identify and promote different brands or services. For example, I would trademark register the service name of my catering business, Quickie Caterers. Also, I would trademark register the brand name of a cookie that I manufacture and sell, Fluffy Not Stuffy Cookies.

 

Intellectual Property - Copyright

Copyrights protect the expression of ideas in literary, artistic and musical works. For example, I would copyright register all the books and articles that I have written. Also, I would copyright register all the paintings that I have painted.

 

Can I Combine Intellectual Property Types?

You can use all three types of intellectual property protection together if necessary. For example, I would patent my invention of an improved car tire, a car tire that never goes flat. I would also trademark register the brand name of my invention, the Tireless Tire.

I would copyright register the instruction manual that I wrote that explains how to take care of a Tireless Tire.

 

What Do You Want To Learn More About?

Will I Need to Hire an Intellectual Property Lawyer?

Filing a patent application is very hard and complex. Filing a trademark application is not easy. Filing for copyright protection is the easiest. Patent offices will not assist you in the preparation of applications, however, they do provide you with some instruction and guides. If you are ready conduct any intellectual property activity as a beginner you are strongly advised to contact a registered patent attorney or agent.

 

How do I Finance and/or Market my Ideas?

The Small Business Administration or SBA provides excellent information on starting, planning, marketing, obtaining venture capital and financing a small business. The SBA also provides training and counseling.

Also see - Funding - Obtaining government grants, small business loans, scholarships and other programs to fund your ideas.

 

Be a Smart Consumer

Before doing busdiness with promoters and promotion firms, you should check on their reputation before making any commitments. It's best to be wary of any firm that promises too much and/or costs too much.

Many inventors pay thousands of dollars to firms that promise to evaluate, develop, patent, and market inventions and then do little or nothing for their fees.

 

Avoid a Financial Disaster

If all you have is an idea, don't ever take the easy way out and think a company or individual is going to do everything for you. Many of these companies are not the real deal. Avoid getting ripped off.

  • See Also - Questions For Promoters - Required information disclosure from promoters and promotion firms.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office or USPTO administers the patent and trademark laws as they relate to the granting of patents for utility inventions, designs and plants and the issuing of trademark registrations in the United States. Other patent offices do similar duties in their respective countries.

 

They Approve Applications

The USPTO examines applications for patents to determine if the applicants are entitled to patents and grants the patents when they are so entitled. It examines applications for trademark registration to determine if the applicants are entitled to register their trademarks and issues trademark registrations.

 

They Keep Records

The USPTO publishes issued patents, approved trademark registrations and various publications concerning patents and trademarks; records assignments of patents and trademarks; and maintains search rooms and a national network of Patent and Trademark Depository Libraries for the use by the public to study issued patents, registered trademarks, and pending trademark applications and records relating to both patents and trademarks. It also supplies copies of records and other papers.

They Help

Free basic information on the patent and trademark system, forms, fees, products and services of the USPTO is available by calling the USPTO’s toll-free line, 800-PTO-9199 or by calling 703-308-HELP.

USPTO customer service representatives are available to answer questions, send free materials or connect you with other offices of the USPTO from 8:30 a.m. - 8:00 p.m. ET, Monday-Friday excluding federal holidays.

A USPTO automated message system is available 7 days a week, 24 hours a day providing informational responses to frequently asked questions and the ability to order certain free documents.

 

Local Help

Patent and Trademark Depository Libraries or PTDLs are a nationwide network of libraries that provide patent and trademark information. Using the collections of a PTDL with the help of a trained librarian, you may be able to determine if someone else has already patented your invention or obtained a federal registration for a trademark on goods or services similar to that you are seeking to use. These specialized librarians may also help you with specific questions regarding the patent and trademark processes, but they will not provide legal advice.

Inventor support organizations and clubs are local groups that you can join and find support. This is a fantastic way for a new inventor to learn more about the process of inventing.