At its origin, the doctrine of ownership rights for Intellectual Property (IP) was established to allow inventors, artists, and other innovative individuals to have a means for protecting their ingenuity legally in order to encourage the free flow of ideas. Such aspirations were motivated in part by ethical and moral considerations (to bestow credit and recognition to the inventor or author), as well as to enable citizens to develop their ideas into potentially-salable articles of interest that could benefit society and the marketplace consumer.
Generally, IP is not something that one would want to obtain just for the sake of having it. The process of securing IP rights can be a costly and time-consuming process. Just as one would not build a house or acquire a piece of land to admire it from afar, but rather with the express intention of using it either through sale, rental, or other exploitation (albeit public, charitable, or humanitarian), the intent of intellectual-property rights is to provide an owner with a legal instrument that can be enforced. Of course, philanthropic motivations – with altruistic interests apart from commercialization and monetization of IP value – can benefit from IP rights as well by defining, securing, and preserving the owner’s property boundaries, “fencing off the property” if you will.
Maintaining the analogy in the context of defining the role of IP strategy, two simple parallels can be drawn from this. Firstly, it is highly doubtful that an investor would be attracted to buying a swamp or other environmentally-compromised piece of real estate, or a building with a faulty structure, unless the investor has the intention to improve the quality of the property, and thereby, raise the monetary or personal worth of the acquisition. Such purchases in the name of posterity are few and far between in the IP world, reserved possibly for benevolent endowments. Likewise, homeowners know very well that when it comes time to sell their residence, appraisers base their assessments on the desirable features, care, and maintenance of the property.
Secondly, in a new land development project or the construction of a new building, a substantial amount of effort goes into formulating the goals, work plans, budgets, and timelines. Activities that are left out of the planning process or handled poorly will hamper the entire project in the end, and can be costly to fix (if possible at all) once the stones are in place and the cement has set.
IP stands on the same ground, so to speak. Intellectual property originates from human creative efforts to produce something truly unique, but how those efforts are captured in the legal tools available is another process in and of itself. Creating high-value IP involves much more activity to shape and mold an idea into a protectable and marketable piece of property. This includes performing a proper patent search of the prior art and building the resulting insight into the patent-drafting process and the IP strategy in general. IP valuation relies primarily on such characteristics to weigh the merits of innovative endeavors. Intellectual property is typically categorized by four general types – patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets – each with their own attributes and uses.
Patents & Trademarks
We have provided an extensive amount of information on our site for the areas of patents and trademarks, covering a range of topics including IP law, IP strategy, patent search, patent drafting, as well as filing, prosecuting, and renewing the IP in question. Suffice it to say here that patents are secured primarily on inventions that are technical innovations; whereas, trademarks are obtained to protect the brand name and image supporting a product or service. The two work hand in hand to enable one to build a sustainable competitive advantage.
A Word About Copyrights
The creative expression of gifted individuals entitles the “authors” to receive copyright protection to prevent the copying of their original works without receiving express permission from the authors. Generally, copyrights are used in the areas of literature, film, music, theater, dance, painting, and photography, but they can also be used to protect games (including videogames), and to some extent software. Copyrights do not have to be registered to be enforceable, but registering a copyright promptly provides more legal avenues of receiving remuneration for unauthorized use, and imposing greater penalties for willful infringement.
Trade secrets are a form of IP that technically don’t have direct rights, since the know-how of a trade secret (whether of a technical process, machine configuration, or chemical formula) is protected by the nature of its concealment, and derives independent economic value from not being publicly known. Once revealed, it is hard to maintain protection. Legal protection is only by way of litigation due to misappropriation or breach of contract (such as an employment contract or NDA).
Meticulous maintenance of trade secrets and the accompanying documentation of the safeguarding protocol employed are essential in order to obtain a beneficial outcome in litigation. Often strategic issues need to be considered carefully when deciding whether to opt for trade-secret or patent protection; the tradeoffs in the IP strategy chosen being 20 years of protection under a patent, and unlimited protection under a trade secret, assuming that it remains a secret.
The FlashPoint IP approach makes every client engagement a value-driven process. We implement this approach by advising and initiating action on behalf of our clients once it can be rationalized from a business point of view in the IP strategy. Moreover, our fee structure compliments our methodology by providing first-class services at affordable rates. Our portfolio menu features a broad range of intellectual-property services (including patent search and patent drafting) for which we have detailed important strategic aspects. In order to discuss the specifics of your IP needs in detail, contact us for a free initial consultation.