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Patent, Trademark, Copyright – What Kind of Protection Does Your Startup Need?

harddirveStartups are called “startups” for a reason – they almost always involve a new product, invention, technology, product, good, or other service that is not already in the marketplace. New ideas and inventions are a great foundation to a new startup – but they need to be protected or else the startup can end up losing its most valuable assets.  There are a number of federal and state intellectual property protections available to startups, but it is not always clear which type is most suitable or will offer the best protection for the startup. Here’s a guide that might help:

A trademark is a type of protection that helps consumers distinguish between one company’s products, services, slogans, or designs versus another’s.  The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office allows individuals and businesses to trademark phrases, logos, packages, products, services, or other slogan to identify their uniqueness and prevent others from using the same mark.  For example, Pepsi is a trademark, and that mark cannot be used by any other person or business without violating Pepsi’s trademark protections and  federal and state trademark laws. Because trademarks can be considered valuable, they are considered assets of the business.  Will your startup need a trademark? It depends on whether the startup’s name or product/service names or logos are capable of being trademarked. If they are, it is usually a good idea to get trademark protection, to prevent similarly-named businesses from using a similar mark. A great example is Fitbit and Fitbug, which have been battling in a trademark dispute due to the similarity of their products and products.  To qualify as a trademark, your logo or slogan must be branded on the good or product registered with the U.S. PTO.  To learn more about trademarks, check out our handy Trademarks FAQ here.

For startups and new business ventures, here are common examples of things you may want to register and obtain protection for:

  • Company name
  • Product name
  • Logo
  • Company Slogan
  • Product Slogans
  • The way your product is packaged (i.e., trade dress)

Copyright is a form of protection provided to the authors of “original works of authorship” including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works, both published and unpublished. Copyrights generally protect creative works, including: a) works of art; b) photos, pictures, graphic designs, drawings and other forms of images; c) songs, music and sound recordings of all kinds; d) books, manuscripts, publications and other written works; and e) plays, movies, shows, and other performance arts. Copyright law does not protect a bare phrase, slogan, or trade name.

For startups and new business ventures, here are common examples of things that may be copyrighted:

  • Photos
  • Videos
  • Literary works
  • Books, pamphlets, written content
  • Artwork (including logo designs)
  • Website content

A patent for an invention is the grant of a property right to the inventor, issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. A patent is a limited monopoly that gives an inventor the exclusive right to prevent others from using the inventor’s invention. Patents do NOT give the inventor the right to make, use, offer, sell, export, or import the invention. There are two types of patents, utility patents and design patents.  Patents are obtained by filing applications through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.  Patents protect products in the fields of machinery, manufacturing, composition of matter (a combination of chemicals), and processes (methods of manufacturing). The most important thing for startups to remember with any invention that qualifies for a patent is that you only have 1 year from the date the invention is made public to bring a provisional patent application – otherwise the invention may lose all patent protection, forever.  To learn more about patents and the patent process, check out our Patent Primer.

For startups and new business ventures, here are some examples of patented goods:

  • The way a product looks (i.e., design patent)
  • The way a product functions (utility patent)
  • The composition of a matter (what something consists of)
  • A method or process

AXIS Legal Counsel offers representation to individual and business clients in numerous intellectual property matters. For information on retaining AXIS Legal Counsel to represent you in connection with an intellectual property matter, contact [email protected] or call (213) 403-0130 for a confidential consultation. AXIS Legal Counsel serves clients throughout Los Angeles and California.   Our Intellectual Property Rights Practice helps clients protect their ideas, inventions, and works of authorship, to copyright, trademark, patent, and secure other intellectual property rights in products, goods, services, inventions, and works of authorship.   Axis’ managing attorney Rabeh M. A. Soofi is ranked as one of the “Top Women Lawyers of Southern California” by SuperLawyers Rising Stars, and counsels clients in need of a Los Angeles Intellectual Property Attorney for trademarks, copyrights, and patent matters.

For information on retaining AXIS Legal Counsel to represent you in connection with any intellectual property matter, contact us at (213) 403-0130 for a confidential consultation. AXIS Legal Counsel serves clients throughout Los Angeles and California.

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