How to Protect Your Tech Innovations in Emerging Markets: a Primer
With the tech boom turning whiz kids into billionaires, it’s more important than ever to put your stamp on your ideas for emerging technology. As Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg showed us, just because you invented it doesn’t mean you own it. So how do you protect your million dollar idea?
Let’s talk about Patents
In short, a United States patent for an invention gives property rights to the inventor or inventors of an idea. Patents are issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and grant the patent holders “the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling” the patented invention in the United States — or importing the invention into the United States.
However, there is more than one type of patent:
- Utility Patent – Utility patents are granted to those who invent or discover any new or useful machine, process, composition of matter, or improvement.
- Design Patent – Design patents are granted to those who invent a new design for an article of manufacture. It must be ornamental and original.
- Plant Patent – Plant patents are granted to those who invent or discover and reproduce any new variety of plant.
While a plant patent does not apply towards anyone with an amazing emerging technology idea, the first two may apply to anyone designing or making a smartphone app or a new computer processor.
A patent usually lasts 20 years from the date in which the application for the patent was filed. It is only effective within the United States, U.S. territories, and U.S. possessions. Once a patent is granted, the patentee must enforce the patent without aid of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, usually through the courts. But patents don’t cover everything.
What about Trademarks and Servicemarks?
Ever notice that “™” symbol next to certain words? This symbol signifies that these words have been trademarked and cannot be used by others to promote their products or services. A trademark is a word, symbol, device, or name indicates the source of a product and shows how it differs from others. A servicemark is similar to a trademark, but it identifies the source of a service instead of a product.
Trademarks and servicemarks don’t prevent others from making or selling the same goods or services using a different name, as a patent does. Both marks are offered by the USPTO.
And, of course, Copyright
A copyright protects authors of original works. These works of authorships can include literary, musical, artistic, and other intellectual works. The works can be published or unpublished. Copyrights not only protect the rights of those who create intellectual works, but they also protect those authors from being accused of plagiarism.
In addition to protecting your idea, getting a copyright will also be necessary for raising capital and getting investors on board, as no one wants to back an idea that may belong to someone else or has not been rightfully claimed.
While protecting your knowledge can be a complex process, it’s doable if you take the appropriate steps. It’s also extremely important. In many cases, intellectual property and technology attorneys are used to help inventors develop, protect, commercialize, and navigate national and worldwide patent and trademark portfolios. The next time you have an idea for emerging technology, make sure you take the steps to protect your knowledge and advantage.