I love to promote creativity and innovation. From the many ideas in engineering to the artistic expressions in fine art. There is beauty in giving “birth” to an idea that was once only a thought in the mind. Speaking of birth, ideas are like children and just like children, they need to be protected. Here are five ways to protect your ideas.
#5 Copyrights – Considered the most accessible form of protection. Copyrights protect the “expression” of your idea. To be specific, writings, music, and art fall under this category. One can only get protection once the copyright is registered under the library of congress. Check out further information at copyright.gov.
# 4 Trademarks – Trademarks are the memorable symbols behind a product or service. Trademarks allow consumers to differentiate and identify brands from one another. Usually logos or iconography used by brands are trademarked. Due to the advantage of a trademark, brands tend to want to protect their trademarks from any infringers. One can register their trademark with the U.S.P.T.O., United States patent and trademark office. For further information, check out uspto.gov.
#3 Patents – Considered the cream of the crop, patents are legal offensive rights that are given to an individual or company to litigate against someone or a group from producing, selling their idea. There are 3 types of patents: utility, design, and plant patents. Utility patents rely on the functionality of an invention. This new invention must be novel and Nonobvious to any professional in the related field of the invention. Design patents focus on the aesthetic or look of an invention. Keep in mind, design patents only cover the look and feel of a product but not its functionality. The last form of patent is the plant patent. This form of patent is pretty much self explanatory. I won’t go into too much detail with plant patents as a person dealing with this type of IP (intellectual Property) would not be using this blog post as a resource for genetically modified crops. For further information, check out uspto.gov.
#2 Trade secrets – As a business, organization, or an innovator, you have the right to keep information, methods, and processes to yourself that give you an advantage over competitors. This is called trade secrets. When executing an idea, it is best to take the necessary steps to have less eyes and ears on your project in its infancy as possible. This could mean having a special room or workplace where you only have access to. There is no way of registering trade secrets, however, if someone misappropriates your trade secrets such as a former employees/collaborator divulging your trade secrets you have the to legally defend your trade secret. Keep in mind: in order to be a trade secrets you must take the steps to protect them. If you leave sketches or drawing everywhere then it makes it harder for you to have a proper defense in court. You must have drawings, notes and paperwork in place that shows that you had the trade secret(s) in place long before the misappropriation occurred.
#1 NDA/FriendDA’s/Lab Notebooks – Just as trade secrets are steps to protect your idea, you also need the proper paperwork in place to protect your idea too. Thats where NDA’s and lab notebooks come into play. An NDA or non-disclosure agreement, also known as a confidentiality agreement (CA), confidential disclosure agreement (CDA), proprietary information agreement (PIA), or secrecy agreement (SA), is a legal contract between at least two groups that outlines confidential material, knowledge, or information that the two groups wish to share with one another for certain purposes, but wish to restrict access to third parties. It is a contract through which the parties agree not to disclose information covered by the agreement. An NDA creates a confidential relationship between the parties to protect any type of confidential and proprietary information or trade secrets. Digital NDA’s can be found online. I like to use the NDA provided by Shake Law. Also there is a “Nicer” version of the NDA called the FriendDA. The FriendDA can be found at Friendda.org
In conclusion, protecting ideas can be a slippery slope for those who are not aware of the process. However, knowing the IP process brings great relief as you will possess information that will be applicable for the rest of your creative life. It is a must if you would like to know how EVERYTHING in our world has been made, marketed and sold. I would recommend reading Nolo’s Patent-It-Yourself. This information is for educational purposes only. Although I am not a legal professional, I would urge you to consult a lawyer for legal advice suitable to your specific needs. Happy creating!