By Karin J. Lindgren JD
A summary of the legal protections available for your IP assets.
|5 Legal Protections:||PATENT||COPYRIGHT||TRADEMARK||TRADE SECRET||CONTRACT|
|Purpose||To protect one's intellectual work product from unauth'd use by others; incentive to produce new inventions.||To protect content of one's intellectual work product from unauth'd use by others, including copying and derivative works.||To protect public from confusion; protect corporate goodwill; protect company from losing market.||To protect one's intellectual work product from unauthorized use by others.||To create an enforceable promise to protect intellectual work product; a biz incentive.|
|Term||20 yrs from filing, if the patent application was filed on or after June 8, 1995.||Death of author plus 70 yrs. For "works for hire" and anonymous works: the shorter of 95 yrs from publication or 120 yrs from creation, w/ some exceptions for unpublished works.||Potentially forever, as long as the mark is used (not abandoned), and TM registration is timely renewed.||Potentially forever, as long as the trade secret is affirmatively protected and maintained as confidential and proprietary information.||Depends upon negotiated contract terms.|
|Subject Matter||Can apply to a useful, novel and "non-obvious" (when compared to "prior art") product, process or application of an idea; not abstract ideas or "laws of nature"||Can apply to original expression of an idea; works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium, or recorded in a concrete way||Can apply to a name or a shape/logo with no "prior use" by another.||Can apply to any "useful arts" and business information.||Any intellectual property can be protected in a contract.|
|Pros||Prevents free riders and independent originators; strongest IP protection available.||Long term protection; low cost; protection begins once work is in tangible form.||Could last forever; low cost; eliminates "unfair competition"||Could last forever; easiest to get (must take reasonable measures to ensure secrecy).||Ability to craft contract terms to suit particular situation.|
|Cons||Most difficult to get; limited duration; time bars; costly to procure and to enforce.||Does not protect ideas (even if original); does not protect facts; does not protect from another's independent origination of same expression of an idea.||Does not preclude others from copying, so long as copying is not likely to cause confusion.||Weakest IP protection; no protection against independent creators.||Difficult to negotiate contractual IP protection; uncertainty of language; lack of crystal ball for future IP developed by biz.|