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A business owner’s guide to intellectual property

Entrepreneurs have to learn a tremendous amount of information when starting a business. Between the legalities of running a startup to balancing a budget, business owners have to pick up new strategies quickly and effectively.

A critical component of running a business is brand protection. Most owners learn how to protect their intellectual property (IP) through trademarks, patents or copyrights, but which one is the right protection for your company?

Patents

Patents are related to specific inventions and designs. An entrepreneur files either a utility or design patent with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), then if approved, the entrepreneur has exclusive rights to making, using selling or importing the product for a specific amount of time – usually around 20 years.

Patents are useful if you have a unique product or design that competitors may copy. It will allow you to make and sell the product without the possibility of imitation. However, it takes years to process an application for patent, and there are no guarantees for approval.

Copyrights

Copyright is fairly standard across media companies because it protects the rights of physical arts, music, written works and performance arts. The length of copyright lasts for the lifetime of the creator plus 70 years.

Copyrights are evoked immediately after creation, and the creator holds the exclusive right to reproduce the original production or create derivative works. While registration is not necessary for copyright, registering the work will help fight any cases in court.

Trademarks

Trademarks are the most common form of IP protection for business owners because you can trademark logos, names and symbols that identify with commercial goods or services. Many entrepreneurs use trademarks to build up brand recognition and prevent competitors from stealing marketing techniques.

To file a trademark in Louisiana, the business owner needs to register the company with the state and then visit the local USPTO to register their name and logo as trademarks. As the trademark owner, you can stop competitors from using your logo, or a very similar logo, along with slogans, names, etc.

However, registering a trademark involves copious amounts of documents. It’s best to consult with a business partner or a legal expert about the ramifications of receiving a mark.

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