A Brief Guide to Intellectual Property

As a business owner, it’s important to understand intellectual property and how it impacts your company. Defined as “a work or invention that is the result of creativity, such as a manuscript or a design, to which one has rights and for which one may apply for a patent, copyright [or] trademark,” intellectual property might include your businesses’ logo, name, or products.

Before you embark on any lengthy applications, it’s important to understand what the different legal safeguards are:

1. Patent – A right granted by the Government of the United States of America “to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention throughout the United States or importing the invention into the United States” for a set amount of time.

2. Trademark – Known as the “TM” sign you often see, this is the signal to identify someone’s “goods,” such as a word, phrase, symbol or design. You might have also seen “SM,” which points to services rather than “goods”.

If you want to file a trademark, you can start using “TM” or “SM” now to let others know of your ownership today. You can start using the ® after you’ve filed an application U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

3. Copyright – Known as the (©), a copyright protects against original works of art, including literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works. Copyright does not protect against ideas, facts, systems or method of operation.

Remember, your strongest assets are worth protectecting. Visit the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Web site to learn more about protecting your small businesses’ intellectual property.