This is the third of three tips that explore the types of intellectual property protection that are critical to establishing and protecting your brand in the small business environment.
Patents give property rights to the inventors of new, useful, and non-obvious inventions. Patents are the most complex and expensive type of intellectual property protection, but they are essential in protecting your technology or invention as you build your small business. A registered patent attorney or patent agent can help you through the process of preparing and prosecuting your application(s).
There are three types of patents: 1) Utility, for anyone who invents or discovers a new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof; 2) Design, for those who invent a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture; and 3) Plant, for anyone who invents or discovers distinct and new varieties of plants.
If an invention comes from the ideas of two or more persons, you should apply for the patent as joint inventors. Financial contributors are not considered joint inventors; therefore a company must execute an assignment from the inventors and file it with the Patent Office in order to own the patent rights.
Once registered, a patent gives you the right to exclude others from utilizing the same technology in any way for 20 years from the filing date of your application. To maintain your patent rights, it is the patent-holder’s responsibility to enforce any patents that are granted by seeking out and stopping any potential infringement.
Caroline Vanderlip, CEO SharedBook New York, N.Y.