Intro to IP Law: Why it Matters Across the World
IP law is a term that many people have heard before. It’s also a term that very few people actually understand. And yet, IP law can impact every business, company, and individual in some way. In this article, we’ll give you a primer on what IP law is, what it can do, and why it matters.
What is IP Law?
IP law is an abbreviation for intellectual property law. This area of the legal system that differs for every country, but in general covers inventions, processes, and other intangible property.
In practice, there are several different IP law categories. These include the following:
- Patents: patents are temporary monopolies granted by governments. They help businesses bring inventions to market without interference, and usually last 10-20 years depending on jurisdiction and category. Patents come in many forms, including utility patents and design patents (the latter is a separate designation in Australia).
- Trademarks: trademarks exist to define a company’s brand and identity. Trademarks, often indicated by the “TM” symbol, help protect brand names, logos, and the like.
- Copyrights: copyrights are the form of IP law that people recognize the most, covering original creative work such as music, art, writing, etc.
- Trade Secrets: trade secrets enable litigation for any confidential information related to a business that has been reasonably protected by confidentiality agreements/contracts, such as secret recipes, supplier contact information, or manufacturing techniques.
What IP Law Can Do
Intellectual property protections have been put in place to foster innovation and reward entrepreneurship. They serve a few key purposes for businesses and individuals looking to secure themselves from IP theft and imitation.
First, trademark protections help protect brand identity. Especially in more mainstream fields where consumers have lots of options, branding may make the difference between a sale and a missed opportunity. By registering trademarks, a company can ensure that no other company in the same field or area can sell products under the same name or an obviously similar logo, thus benefiting from positive brand association or loyalty.
Copyrights reward creators of original work by letting them sue for infringement and license their work for money or educational means. Duplication and imitation intrinsically decreases the value and uniqueness of creative work, and so copyright protection preserves the profits and reputation of creatives.
Patents are a powerhouse in the entrepreneurial economy, and offer specialized market protection that other IP law areas do not. A temporary monopoly may seem out of place in a free market, but in fact it promotes innovation and invention by helping inventors bring their product to market (which can be a long and strenuous process) without another company snatching up the same idea first.
How, then, should companies approach IP protection?
Using IP Law to Your Advantage
The first step in putting in place good IP law practices is getting informed. By reading this article, you’re already on the right track.
Each country or jurisdiction usually has its own agencies in charge of intellectual property, like the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in the United States. These agencies may be different for trademarks as opposed to copyrights; make sure to figure out which resources can be found where.
Next, it’s important to take the right time-sensitive steps. If you have trade secrets to protect, have employees sign confidentiality agreements early on. Trademark your brand name and logo before someone else does, and don’t be afraid to look into patenting as well. Running a patent search for your invention, and budgeting for the sometimes substantial patent cost are all parts of making sure your intellectual property remains safe.
Once a company is ready to move ahead with IP protections, they should consult a patent attorney or IP law firm to decide on a plan of action. Bur a prior base knowledge of the field can help both parties tremendously.
Intellectual property law is no small affair; with its many categories and implementations, it can have a massive impact on the success or failure or businesses and individuals alike.
Cursory knowledge of the differences between trademarks, patents, copyrights, and the like can give an idea of what a company should prioritize in its path to smart IP habits. IP protections exist to foster innovative ideas and entrepreneurial action, and are a foundation of thriving free markets. Make sure to get even more informed on which IP laws apply to you, and don’t hesitate to act on them.For more, feel free to visit our blog!