Registration is typically accomplished through submission of an application and subsequent approval of the patent by the patent office. There are different types of protection available depending on what your organization has produced. Patents, as described above, are reserved for the protection of ideas, like the application of chemical compounds or other materials for a particular purpose, for example.
There are also:. As we mentioned above, legal protection of your IP requires you to present it and essentially announce its existence.
Alternatively, you could keep all information about your IP confidential. By establishing nondisclosure agreements NDAs with all personnel working on or interacting with the IP, you have a defensive layer against infringement. Right up until the patent is approved, the IP is unprotected unless previously secured as a trade secret; as such, there is minimal legal barrier to prevent others who do not own the IP from replicating it.
Copyrights and trademarks may be processed more quickly, though, and may present some options for protection, so take advantage of all of your protective rights if you can. You and your team know your IP best.
How to Talk About Your Nonpatented Invention Without Having Your Idea Stolen
Attending trade shows and trolling press releases are good places to start. Unfortunately, there is little you can do if that product is patented and yours is not. This reinforces the urgency with which your business should put patent, trademark, copyright and trade secret protections in place. Maintaining your IP portfolio through use of IP management software that preserves filing information can help you quickly recognize incidents of potential infringement.
If you do find another party is committing IP infringement, you will want to pursue legal action.
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Upon discovering a possible case of infringement, consult with an intellectual property law firm. They will be able to analyze the situation, determine whether there are grounds for legal action, and offer further advice. Attorneys can also document their opinion of the case for later use as evidence in court, which helps to preserve the situation since the infringing party has not been confronted yet.
However, there are also secrets that do not qualify for patents because they are not sufficiently inventive to be granted exclusive rights or fall into areas not covered by patents, such as abstract ideas. In those cases, designation as a trade secret is the only way to protect the information or process.
The most substantial advantage of a trade secret designation over a patent is cost. Patents must be filed with the relevant patent offices, followed by a patent search and examination. If the patent is granted, you will also need to pay annuity fees to maintain it.
International Patent Group
The bottom line: drafting, filing and maintaining a patent requires professional involvement at every level. The process is expensive and time consuming. A trade secret, however, does not need to be filed or approved. There are no filing fees, legal fees, or patent translation fees. It need only be designated as secret. The designation takes effect immediately, in contrast to a patent application, which could take years.
With trade secrets, added value is often derived from the secrecy itself, in addition to what the secret is protecting. Leaks of unreleased iPhones promote the product better than paid advertisements.
People naturally gravitate toward the hidden and mysterious, providing intrinsic value in products that have a secret component. Another big benefit of trade secrets is the indefinite period of protection, especially for companies with long-term interests. If Coca-Cola had filed for a patent when the company began selling classic Coke, its recipe would have been open to the public a long time ago. Competitors could have created generic versions of the drink that would be indistinguishable from the original.
Finally, when it comes to trade secrets, there are no government agencies regulating them or compliance procedures to follow. As long as the secret is kept from public knowledge, the company continues to benefit from it without any reporting requirements.
Austin TX Business Law Blog
Choosing the protection of trade secrets over patents is not risk-free, however. While a patent will only remain in effect for 20 years or less, the protection it provides is considerably stronger. Trade secret protection only applies to unlawful breaches. It does not bar parties from legitimate duplication efforts such as reverse engineering in order to arrive at the secret independently.