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Essential Intellectual Property Documents
Common Intellectual Property Questions
How do patents work?
In 2012, patent law in the United States changed. We are now what’s known as a “first to file” nation. That simply means that the patent for an innovation or product goes to the first person to file patent paperwork, not the first inventor. On a practical level, that means you need to file for a patent without delay. Keep in mind that you can still file a provisional patent before filing for a full one. That way, you’ll still be considered the first to file, even if you haven’t worked out each and every necessary detail.
What’s the difference between a copyright and a trademark?
While both copyrights and trademarks help to protect your intellectual property, they deal with different kinds of creations. Copyrights are mostly concerned with creative works like books, songs, photographs, and web content. Trademarks, on the other hand, protect goods and services by distinguishing your IP from that of your competition.
What’s the difference between a trademark and a registered mark?
Both a trademark and registered mark assert ownership over goods and services. That said, only a registered mark is actually filed with the government. A trademark symbol may be used to let the public know you’re claiming “common law” ownership over a word or phrase. If you want that ownership on the books, you’ll want to file for a registered mark with the US Government.
What is “fair use”?
Intellectual property is protected from other persons and businesses that try to profit from or distribute it without the owner’s say-so. For example, you can’t simply set up a movie theater in your house and start showing Hollywood movies. But, if you were a school or teacher, you could absolutely show those movies. That’s because “fair use” allows for intellectual property to be distributed and shown if it’s for educational purposes.
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