Intellectual property is the legal term for your ideas rather in the areas of music, literature, inventions, words, phrases, symbols, or designs. You are able to claim ownership rights to your idea by entering into a contract with the United States via the The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
If your idea is new, you are required to file a Utility Patent, Design Patent or Plant Patent. Yes that’s right! If you have an idea on a new fruit we should be eating and create the seed for it, you can patent that! Is there something you want to make better? Then you’ll have to file an Improvement Patent.
To start, file a Provisional Patent, which costs $65-260 depending on the size of your company and income. A Provisional Patent gives you a year to license or test your idea before you filing for the non provisional patent. You want to do this along with hiring a patent attorney to conduct a patent search. This will be important to obtain information on prior art. What is prior art? To make it simple, it’s when someone used that same idea before you or made a claim to certain parts of your idea. If you find someone has filed for a patent prior to you and they are not using it, you can contact them to either license it from them or buy the ownership from them.
It’s important to examine what you have and to know what category it falls into. I think with the new wave of Shark Tank watchers, EVERYONE wants to INVENT now! But, it’s not for everyone and everyone doesn’t have idea that needs a patent. For instance, if you have written a song, a movie/television script, created a website, or special graphics, you’ll need a copyright. Copyrights are much cheaper to obtain.
There are also occurrences where you need to protect your company name and service by registering your company for the ® registered trademark symbol, but in the mean time, use the ™ unregistered trademark symbol next to your logo, business name and slogans. You can continue to use this for FREE, that’s right for free! Make sure to put the ™ on your business cards, website, blogs, all social media, etc.
Remember, this is just a start and a small percentage of the information needed to file your first patent. When you cover all bases, it creates a deterrent for copycats. Think of a home alarm system. Having an alarm system and making others aware of that system reduces your chances of burglary. Thieves will move on to an easier target. Don’t become that easy target. Protect yourself!
Here are some great resources that I like to use: