Entrepreneurs are wise to protect their inventions from the competition. Four ways to achieve this goal include:
- Patents. There are two types of patents that can protect an invention: design and utility. The design patent protects the appearance of the invention. This can include the colors or shape of the parts of a machine. The utility patent protects the process, mechanism, or machine itself. In many cases it is helpful to have both of these patents to get full protection of a single invention.
- Trademark. This form of IP protection allows the inventory to protect distinctive features like shapes or colors used in logos.
- Copyrights. This legal tool offers protection over writings, drawings, and other forms of authorship. It extends beyond items like stories and songs and can include works like software.
- Trade secrets. It is also important to limit access to confidential information like client lists, special processes, and plans.
It is not uncommon for an invention to require use of a combination or all four forms of protection. One example, a relatively simple vending machine, could require both patents to protect the machine mechanisms as well as the look of the machine, trademark protections for the logo of the vending machine, copyrights for the software that processes payments and distributes goods as well as trade secret protections to keep client lists safe from competitors.
How do IP protections work?
The individual or business who owns these protections is generally responsible for enforcement in the event of a violation. The exact path will vary depending on the situation but can include a cease-and-desist letter and potential litigation. When successful these measures can lead to court orders requiring the competitor stop the infringing action and monetary awards to make up for lost revenue.