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Intellectual Property: The Basics and Your Business

intellectual propertyWhat is "intellectual property" and why should it matter to your business? At the most basic level, "intellectual property" is one of an organization's most valuable assets. Intellectual property frequently differentiates extraordinary companies from "average" organizations. For that reason, IP must be zealously protected.  IP breaks down into four areas: patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets.

Patent law grants certain rights to the inventors of processes, devices, and machines. Securing a patent will prevent anyone other than the patent holder from creating that process, device, or machine for a set period of time.

Trademark law covers slogans, names, symbols, and other marks which are used to identify a particular business or product, such as the Nike Swoosh. A trademark owner may bring suit against anyone who tries to copy the trademark for purposes of confusing the public, like sellers of knockoff designer handbags.

Copyright law protects original works (e.g., books, movies, and songs). Like patents, copyrights are not indefinite and eventually expire, causing the works enter the public domain–such as many classic books (e.g., Treasure Island).

Trade secrets law protects the process by which companies create something which may give them an advantage over competitors. A well-known example of a trade secret is Coca-Cola's secret formula.

Obtaining the maximum protection for your intellectual property is not automatic and requires affirmative action.  If you have questions about your intellectual property and its protection, feel free to give me a call.

Categories: Copyright, Intellectual Property, Patents, Trade Secrets, Trademarks

Photo of Nicholas M. Oertel

focuses his practice in the areas of Michigan non-property tax disputes, business entity selection, corporate transactions, and information technology.

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