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Protecting your intellectual property

You lock your car, alarm your house and change your passwords to protect your property. However, how have you undertaken to protect your intellectual property? For example, if you have written a book, composed a song or created a computer program, you have intellectual property to protect.

Failing to protect your intellectual property may allow others to capitalize from your hard work or creative plan. However, the manner in which you can protect your intellectual property depends on the type of idea you have.

Three types of protection

To protect your intellectual property through governmental help, you have three choices:

  • Patent
  • Trademark
  • Copyright

Each of these provides protection for different types of intellectual property under varying circumstances.

Patent

If you have a new and useful invention or process, you can protect your rights to sell or market it for 20 years by applying for a patent. The government typically grants patents for machines or methods used in industry or technology. The limitations placed on patents are specific and best explained by a legal professional. One drawback to the patent is that you must disclose it to the public, so it may not be wise to protect trade secrets with a patent.

Trademarks

If you have a logo or symbol you want consumers to associate only with your product, you may decide to apply for a trademark. After registering your mark, that symbol or logo can be followed by the letters TM to indicate that the mark represents your particular product. For example, you may say you are going to "Google" something, meaning you are searching the internet for information. However, the word Google is a trademark of a particular search engine.

Copyright

If your intellectual property is artistic in nature, such as a novel, song, play or motion picture, you may seek copyright protection. Copyrights protect the expression of ideas, not the ideas themselves. With a copyright, you have the right to reproduce, change, distribute or perform the work.

Trade secrets

While there is no governmental protection for trade secrets, you can sue someone if he or she steals your secret and profits from it. Otherwise, the best course of action is to keep it secret by allowing as few people as possible to have access to it.

Protecting your intellectual property may be vital to your livelihood. The laws surrounding copyrights, trademarks and patents may be confusing, but you can find answers by consulting a Florida legal professional.

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