Trademarks – How to Select
The USPTO (2011) defines trademarks as any symbols, names, words, or designs and devices used as part of trade to represent goods and services, to distinguish a company’s goods and services from other brands or products in the industry. The purpose of a trademark is that it indicates where the goods and services come from, or the source of goods (USPTO, 2011). Trademarks are critical for branding, and helping consumers know where goods originate from. In selecting a trademark, several considerations help determine the strength of the mark. These include whether the mark is related to the product or service; the less common the mark, the more likely the trademark is to stand apart from other marks and prevent others from copying the mark. Further, marks should be distinguished and do more than simply describe the goods and services of a company. Marks should offer more than simple or generic terms, which are easily duplicated and often cannot be registered, as they represent common words rather than original words that a company can use to represent the source of goods and services. Typically the best trademarks are those that are coined or words that are unusual in nature, made up of creative terminology that one would not consider ordinarily, offering the best possible protection (USPTO, 2011).
Copyrights – How to Enforce
Copyright protections protect published works for the life of the author, and an additional 70 years for any work that is published after 1977 (Nolo, 2013). Many works published prior to 1923 are available in the public domain, and do not have common copyright protections, thus can be freely shared on the Internet and other public domains (U.S. Copyright Office, 2013). The exception to general copyright protections are works that have been “commissioned by an employer or published under a pseudonym which provides protection for between 95 and 120 years” (Nolo, 2013). Thus, if an Entrepreneur hires for hire, the protections of copyright may be different than work created as original work and published by the franchise or other establishment (Judd and Justis, 2007). The U.S. Copyright Office (2013) provides registration of copyrights to protect copyright ownership. If an entity believes a copyright has been infringed upon, it is up to the copyright owner to pursue retribution or litigation in civil court (Judd & Justis, 2007; U.S. Copyright Office, 2013). It is common for a copyright owner to ask the violating material be taken down, although statutory damages and other fees may be requested.
Patents – What can be Patented – How is Different from Trade Secret
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (2011) defines a patent as a property right, which is granted to the inventor of an invention, offered for 20 years from the date that an application is filed in the U.S., or other territories. A patent may be filed for utilities, which include the design and discovery of new processes, machines, or manufacturing of matter; designs, which include development of original designs; and plant patents, including the invention or discovery of new discovery of plants and materials (USPTO, 2011).
A trade secret is different, in that it is information that is confidential to the nature of a particular business, or business operations, and may include data or information about techniques used by a business to remain competitive, or pricing information relative to a business, salary information relative to a business, information about company operations, customers and other pertinent information known only by insiders within a company (Judd and Justis, 2007). This information can also include formulas a company uses as part of its merchandise, in order to stay competitive. Other information that may be considered a trade secret may include a company’s hiring process, or product list. Typically information like this is kept privy to only certain members of a company; access may be limited to certain individuals in the company.
- Judd, R.J. and Justis, R.T. (2007). Franchising: An Entrepreneur’s Guide. CENGAGE Learning and Custom Publishing.
- Nolo. Copyright Basics FAQ. Nolo Law for All. Retrieved November 27, 2013 from: http://www.nolo.com/
- U.S. Copyright Office. (2013). Copyright Infringement. Retrieved November 27, 2013 from: http://www.copyright.gov/
- USPTO. (2011). What are Patents, Trademarks, and Service marks, and Copyrights? United States Patent and Trademark Office. Retrieved November 27, 2013 from: http://www.uspto.gov/