Intellectual Property Law has a wide range of protection mechanisms and grantable rights allowing to protect various facets of a company’s technology. IP protection is a form of contract between an inventor/company and an authority granting the IP right, stating a very simple give and take equation: the inventor/company contributes something to society which has not been known before, and in return, the authority grants the inventor/company the an IP right limited by time, jurisdiction and a specified scope of protection.
IP protection mechanisms attempt to provide protection for inventions based on the question the IP right answers with respect to these inventions, as detailed below.
Patents – Provide IP protection for the functional aspects of a given invention, specifically, answering the questions of “What are the functional components of the invention” and “How does this invention work?”. Patents can cover various inventions including an apparatus, a chemical/biological formula, a technological process, a product resulting from that process etc.
Designs – Provide IP protection for the visual aspects of a given invention, specifically, answering the questions of “What is the visual appearance of the invention?” and “What visual features of the invention make it recognizable?”. Design protection can cover anything from the sleek lines of a water or juice bottle to the ornamental shift knob of car, and even a graphic interface or the layout of a website.
Trademarks – Provide IP protection for the reputation and origin of the invention, specifically, answering the question of “Whose invention is it?” and “Who/what does the invention represent?”. Trademarks are the most valuable IP protection (in terms of net worth) and can cover a logo (e.g. apple), a brand name (e.g. Google), a sound (e.g. Harley Davidson motor – yes, for real!) and even a color.
Copyright – Provides protection for the content of a work of literature/art (e.g. books, music, paintings, sculpture and films, to computer programs, databases, advertisements, maps and technical drawings). Copyright protection can encompass anything from artwork (e.g. Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and Michaelangelo’s David), literary works (e.g. Dostoevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment’ and Salinger’s ‘Catcher in the Rye’), music (e.g. Beethoven’s 5th) and even code.
Trade Secrets – Provide protection for certain technological aspects of the invention, specifically, answering the question “What is the know-how required for the invention?”. As opposed to the previously described IP protection mechanisms, trade secrets are not disclosed to society and allow the inventor/company to maintain a competitive edge in the market by keeping certain technological knowledge to themselves. Specifically, trade secrets encompass the body of knowledge an inventor/company has which allows them to successfully overcome certain problems which other players in the field may not be able to. Trade secrets can cover things like Coca Cola’s formula, a unique process for the manufacturing of bubble wrap etc. As a result, trade secrets need to be kept secret under specific regulations in order to be considered a trade secret.
Now that you’re an expert of IP rights, let’s try to utilize the various types of IP rights with regards to our brand new food printer. We’ll start by asking the questions specific to each type of IP right.
“What are the components of the food printer?” and “How does it work?”
Patent applications for our food printer can be filed for any functional aspect of the food printer, for example:
“What does the printer/products look like?” and “What ornamental features of the printer make it recognizable?”
Design applications for our food printer can be filed for any visual or ornamental aspect of the food printer, for example:
“Whose invention is it?” and “Who/what does the invention represent?”
Trademark applications for the food printer can be filed for a logo, brand name and even sounds, for example:
“What is the know-how required for the invention?”
Naturally, during the design and development of such a food printer, there accumulates a huge body of knowledge that is not disclosed to the public and cannot be discerned from observing the food printer or the food products created by it. All this knowledge allows the company to successfully overcome certain problems in the design and manufacture of its food printers which other players in the market may not be able to do. Examples of such trade secrets can include:
In conclusion, a strategic approach to intellectual property is essential for safeguarding innovations and fostering business success. Understanding the diverse protection mechanisms, from patents and designs to trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets, empowers innovators to secure their creations comprehensively. By navigating the nuanced interplay of various IP rights, entrepreneurs can maximize the value of their intellectual assets, ensuring a competitive edge and long-term success in their respective industries.
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