Important tips for continuing to protect intellectual property

Securing a patent, trademark or copyright can be critical to all businesses with unique, innovative goods and services. And protecting trade secrets with confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements can also be vital to protecting information that gives a company its competitive edge.

While putting these initial protections in place is important, business owners in California would be wise to revisit their protective efforts from time to time, particularly if none have ever been implemented. Failing to make updates, enforce ownership or renew certain measures could mean losing that protection.

Based on this article published by the Federal Government, here are some suggestions to ensure your intellectual property remains secure.

  • Copyrights - A copyright for anything created in or after 1978 lasts for 70 years after the creator dies. That period could be as long as 120 years for works created for hire. These works are not subject for renewal registration. However, the rules vary for works created before 1978.
  • Patents - Depending on the type of patent you have, it can expire after 14, 15 or 20 years after receiving the patent. You must pay maintenance fees to retain ownership throughout the life of the patent. Though there are exceptions, most patents will not be renewed. As such, additional protections, like trademarks, may be worth considering when a patent expires.
  • Trademarks - While trademarks don't expire, you must continue to use the trademarked work, and have evidence of use. If you stop using it, you can lose your right to prevent others from using the work.
  • Trade secrets - Protections for trade secrets can be in place indefinitely. However, the protected information must retain commercial value to stay protected. The owner also must continue to make efforts to maintain the secrecy of the information.

It is important to note that in many cases, business owners must make diligent efforts to enforce ownership. This means that in many instances business owners are required to take affirmative action against parties who are misusing the work or material.Having an experienced law firm identify when action is required and taking the appropriate actions (such as properly serving the potential violator with a cease and desist letter to preserve your legal claims) may be the difference between losing and retaining your intellectual property rights.

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