There are four basic ways to legally protect intellectual property: trade secrets, copyrights, trademarks and patents. Trade secrets are information, processes or formulas that allow a company to keeps its competitive advantage. Copyrights protect things like music, movies and books and guard against illegal duplication. Trademarks provide protection of distinct logos and symbols that represent products or businesses. Finally, patents are given to inventors for any machine, product or process that will benefit the public.
Anyone who comes up with a new idea for an invention deserves credit and any resulting benefits for the potential success that it may have. Intellectual property theft is a global problem, with counterfeited goods making up 5-7% of the goods traded in the world, representing $512 billion in lost sales. Intellectual property theft is costing Americans alone between $200 and $250 billion per year, costing 750,000 jobs a year!
Obtaining a trade secret, copyright, trademark or patent is an arduous process, and the steps are not the same for every invention. But what’s the first step? It is advised that new inventors seek the professional counsel of a lawyer who is familiar with intellectual property law. He or she will be able to determine the most effective and the safest path to take in protecting intellectual property. And protecting an invention should always be the first step in bringing that invention to life.