What is Intellectual Property Law?

Intellectual property (IP) law covers the rights accorded to creators and owners of inventions, music, designs, symbols, images, and other works.

Its principal objective is to guarantee that individuals and businesses can solely profit from their mind creations — also known as “intellectual property” — and maintain control over their use.

For example, if you develop something as revolutionary as the light bulb, you may be granted the exclusive right to produce, use, and sell your invention by intellectual property law, making it illegal for anyone to copy or utilize it without your permission.

By providing these rights, IP law also incentivizes individuals and businesses to invest in research and development, leading to discoveries and advancements that improve our lives and ensures that businesses compete based on their own merits rather than the unauthorized use of others’ creativity.

There are four main areas of intellectual property law:

1) Patents for Inventions

“Do you have a patent for that?” is a frequently asked question when entrepreneurs pitch the sharks on the well-known business reality TV show Shark Tank to invest in their new product.

Patents are legal documents issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that give inventors the monopoly to manufacture and market their new product for a certain period, mostly up to 20 years.

The sharks ask the patent question because they know:

  • A patent demonstrates that your product has undergone extensive research by several third parties and been found to be new and unique—factors that may provide it with a competitive edge in the market.
  • Having a patent gives you a robust defense against established businesses that might “rip off” your product and offer it under their popular brands, killing your business.
  • If someone infringes on your patent, you have the right to file a lawsuit against them seeking damages.
  • With a patent, your choices for product licensing—which often entails granting a larger business permission to produce and commercialize your product—are improved. As a result, you may receive a higher royalty fee for your invention.

The sharks generally avoid putting their money in non-patented products and services, and when they do, they demand more ownership of the business to cover their risk. So, you can see how important it is to obtain a patent as a business owner with an innovative offering, especially if you plan to seek funding to bring it to market.

With decades of combined experience in intellectual property law, the attorneys at Gallagher Krich, APC, can help you apply for three types of patents:

  • Utility patent. This is the most common patent issued in the U.S. and is used to prevent others from copying how a machine, tech, chemicals, etc., work.
  • Design patent, which stops your competitors from replicating your product’s appearance. For instance, Apple owns multiple design patents for the iPhone, one of which is related to the device’s unique rectangular shape with rounded corners.
  • Plant patents protect innovators who develop new plant varieties.

2) Trademarks for Brand Protection

I’m sure you’re familiar with Nike’s Swoosh, Adidas’s three stripes, iPhone’s apple, and McDonald’s yellow M logo. These logos are extremely valuable IP assets for these businesses as they make it easier for consumers to recognize their goods and services, potentially increasing sales.

To ensure that they’re the only ones earning from their logos, these corporations have trademarked them.

Intellectual property law, through trademarks, gives businesses the exclusive right to use a specific logo, name, or phrase for the sale of products or services.

If you legally own a trademark, you may file an infringement lawsuit against another party if they utilize the same or a comparable trademark.

You can also register a trademark through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and once you do, your company will legally own it indefinitely as long as you continue to use it for commercial endeavors and renew it on schedule every ten years.

A trademark that is not renewed will have its registration canceled, allowing others to use it for profit without worrying about facing legal consequences.

Generally speaking, a trademark has to be original and not used by another entity to be registered.

3) Copyrights for Literary and Artistic Works

Copyrights, a type of IP law, protect the movies you watch, apps on your smartphone, books you read, music you enjoy listening to, paintings you hang on your walls, etc., from being exhibited, reproduced, modified, sold, distributed, or performed without the creator’s permission.

For instance, copyright law secures J.K. Rowling’s renowned Harry Potter series, guaranteeing that only she and approved parties can decide how the literary works will be utilized.

Copyright protection is automatically offered to original intellectual and artistic expressions immediately after they’re in digital or physical form, making them the creator’s property.

Most copyrights last for the duration of the creator’s life plus 70 years after their passing. However, legal protection is valid for 120 years from the creation date or 95 years from publication if an organization owns the copyright.

Learn more about copyright protection and registration in this article we wrote: https://www.tomgallagherlaw.com/how-to-copyright-art-california/

4) Trade Secrets Protection for Confidential Business Information

In 2006, a disgruntled Coca-Cola employee attempted to sell top-secret Coke information to competitor Pepsi for $1.5M.

Coca-Cola has never made Coke’s recipe public, which has been a closely guarded secret for over a century. Fortunately, Pepsi informed Coca-Cola, who contacted the authorities, resulting in the employee’s arrest and charging.

IP law offers businesses trade secrets protection, allowing them not to disclose information that gives them an advantage in the market and an offense punishable by criminal and civil penalties for anyone to disclose, buy, or use trade secrets. Company trade secrets protected by intellectual property law can range from complex manufacturing processes to a simple client list.

If the necessary measures are taken to secure your trade secret rights, trade secret protection is perpetual — unlike patents, which are only good for 20 years.

Don’t Let Your Valuable IP Assets Be Vulnerable

Without adequate protection, your original ideas, inventions, designs, trademarks and trade secrets can be easily exploited by others in today’s cutthroat business environment, jeopardizing your competitive advantage and losing you millions of dollars in revenue.

You can prevent this from happening by working with the intellectual property attorneys at Gallagher Krich, APC – who have 30+ years of combined business law experience and have helped hundreds of entrepreneurs with IP matters – to develop a customized IP strategy that guards your company against copycats and intellectual property thieves. 

Call us today at (858) 926-5797 or fill out our online contact form to arrange a free consultation, where we can discuss the intricacies of IP, what type of intellectual property protection would be the best fit for your business, how we can help you implement a bulletproof IP strategy, and much more.

Together, we can guarantee protection for your valuable IP assets and position your business for long-term success!

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Thomas F. Gallagher, Esq.


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