Southern California is home to a plethora of thriving industries that make millions upon millions of dollars through the exercise of intellectual property rights. Hollywood produces hundreds of movies annually, Los Angeles is host to dozens of music studios, and Silicone Valley puts out all kinds of innovative technologies and new software each year. There is a booming biotech industry, a number of medical device manufacturing and semiconductor device manufacturing companies, and a growing multiplex communications industry, all right here in Southern California and all bringing in significant cash flow to the Golden State. Many of these flourishing businesses owe much of their success to their ownership of, and the exercise of, certain intellectual property rights, such as patents, copyrights and trademarks.
What is Intellectual Property?
Intellectual property is an intangible asset that is derived from the intellectual work of a person or group of people. Intellectual work can include things like ideas, inventions, designs, works of art, manuscripts or other work products that found their beginnings as someone’s idea. A property right can be acquired in an intellectual work via an application process, and if awarded, the intellectual property holder obtains a legal right to that intellectual work.
Intellectual property rights are divided up into different types of rights: namely patents, copyrights, trademarks and trade secrets. These subclasses of intellectual property differentiate what type of right the intellectual property is. The process for obtaining each type of intellectual property protection is distinct and often complicated and involved, and it is highly advisable that you procure the assistance of a skilled intellectual property attorney before filing your application. The seasoned Los Angeles intellectual property attorneys at the Law Office of Kenechi R. Agu are specially qualified to help you and your company acquire, maintain and police your intellectual property rights.
A patent is an intellectual property right on an invention. Once obtained, the patent gives the patent holder a set of intellectual property rights that allow the property holder to exclude others from making, using or selling the invention embodied in the patent for a period of 20 years, or 14 years in the case of a patented design. Patents must be applied for, and the invention must be novel and non-obvious in order to be awarded a patent.
A copyright can be obtained on any original work of authorship, including but not limited to written materials, works of art, sculptures and many other creative works. In fact, a copyright exists in your creative work from the moment you create it. However, in order to bring a lawsuit for infringement of your work, meaning someone copied your work without your permission, you need to register your copyrighted material with the Library of Congress. Copyright protection only covers the expression of a creative work, meaning how it looks, sounds, etc. It does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation.
Protection can be sought for iconic things that represent your business and that the public associates with your business, such as a company slogan, company symbol, musical tones, or even a distinctive scent. When you use an iconic mark, a trademark, in association with your business, customers begin to associate that mark with your products. Your mark symbolizes a certain expected quality of the good or service you are providing. By registering your trademark, if an imposter comes along and tries to steal your success by using your trademark, you can exercise your trademark rights and prevent them from trying to pose as you and your business.
Trade secrets are company information that gives the company a competitive advantage because the public does not know the secret. Famous examples of trade secret information include the recipe for Coca-Cola® or the formula for WD-40®. If these secret recipes were publicly known, these companies would lose their competitive advantage. The biggest problem with trade secrets is that they can be stolen and taken to a competitor. When theft of intellectual property occurs, such as theft of a trade secret, only litigation, or the mere suggestion of litigation, can put a stop to it.
Lawsuits Over Intellectual Property
Lawsuits over intellectual property are fairly common in the news today and everyone is involved in them, from giant corporations constantly suing one another over patents, copyrights and trademarks to small-time inventors, independent writers and small businesses suing for infringement of their intellectual property rights. If someone is infringing your intellectual property rights, exercising your rights is your best course of action to get them to stop.
Why Is Intellectual Property So Important to Business?
Intellectual property rights are business assets and can be bought and sold just like physical assets. Companies can develop extensive intellectual property portfolios providing a swatch of protection that suits their business purposes. Intellectual property portfolios are often used in offensive litigation, defensive litigation and as a bargaining chip in many business deals and transactions. But intellectual property isn’t just for giant companies with billions to spend on intangible business assets. Small-time individuals, businesses and startups can procure intellectual property rights too, which provide an immense boost to their prospects of attracting investors.
Intellectual property law is a very specialized area of law, requiring lawyers to have extensive training and even special registration to practice prosecution before the United States Patent and Trademark Office, as is the case for patent attorneys. The experienced Los Angeles intellectual property attorneys at the Law Office of Kenechi R. Agu can provide you with counseling regarding your intellectual property options, including whether an international protection strategy is right for you and your business, and can help you through the various application processes, both foreign and domestic. Furthermore, our IP specialists can assist you with any litigation issues you might have concerning your intellectual property rights, and can help you arrange intellectual property licensing agreements.