Patent and Trademark Information for Your Business

Trademarks

The first numbered patent was created in 1836. Since this time, businesses and manufacturers have begun trademarking products and services as a means of setting them apart in the marketplace. Companies can trademark logos to protect and distinguish them from other business symbols. An organization uses a business trademark as it builds a company image. Corporate symbols that are trademarked are protected from unauthorized use by other parties under trademark law. Filing for trademark protection involves submitting a trademark registration through the Patent and Trademark Office, which is a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce. The process involves a business meeting the requirements for a trademark prior to protection. These requirements state that trademark use must be connected with commerce. In addition, a mark must be distinctive. It must specifically identify or distinguish goods as being connected with one company.

Copyright

Original works of authorship such as music, books, academic writing, and other intellectual projects fall under copyright protection. Copyright law covers original works that are either published or unpublished. Visual arts also fall under the parameters of copyright protection. Copyright basics state that any work that someone created after January 1, 1978, has automatic copyright protection from the moment the person created it. This protection lasts for the term of the creator's life plus 70 years after death. Anything created before 1978 also has federal copyright protection under the same intellectual property guidelines. Some copyright exceptions exist. Under the definition of copyright, these exceptions include any works that have not been written or recorded. Other exceptions include short phrases, slogans, titles, and lists of ingredients. Common property that cannot be traced to a specific origin or originator also escapes copyright law. Copyright violations are commonly known as piracy. Piracy issues are widespread thanks to the easy availability of intellectual property on the Internet. Copyright law also covers computer software, giving the copyright owner rights to reproduction, distribution, and display of the software.

Patents

When an inventor or researcher designs a new product or invention, a patent license can protect the property and the rights of the inventor. The Patent and Trademark Office grants patents for new and useful inventions that are determined to be "non-obvious." Patent law states that the patent period spans 20 years from the date an inventor files a patent application. The patent gives the inventor the exclusive rights to the invention, which prevents others from making or selling the item during the patent period. Patents granted by the United States are valid only in this country. Three types of patents include utility patents, design patents, and plant patents. After creating an invention, an inventor or researcher can begin the patenting process. This process involves determining whether the item is patentable. Specific patent rules are in place, establishing required criteria for a patent. After determining that a product is patentable, the next step involves conducting research of patents to see if someone else has already patented the item. Searching for patents can be a time-consuming process. Some people opt to hire a patent agent to assist with the process of finding patents. After concluding the research phase, the next step is filing for the patent with the Patent and Trademark Office.

Branding Your Business

Awareness about branding has grown in the business world in recent years. More companies are realizing that their brands are an important and valuable asset, and they are setting branding priorities to achieve goals. In the most basic terms, a brand represents a company to consumers. Consumers can see a brand and have an immediate idea about a company's reputation and the products or services provided. Brands also represent the marketing efforts of a company. A number of brand myths exist. Brands are not logos or identities in and of themselves. Instead, brands are the customers' ideas and feelings about products, services, and companies. As companies seek to define their corporate brands and to create brand identity, it's important to create a defined brand strategy to achieve these goals. Branding a business entails creating a company personality and defining company characteristics and values as a public entity. This process will likely involve branding new products as they are developed and released. Fusion branding is another relevant process, which involves moving forward after merging companies. Better branding doesn't just happen, but with helpful branding tips, business owners can create viable and reputable identities that resonate with consumers. A professional website with credit card processing available and an active blog are among things that are useful to have when branding a business.

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