Protecting California patents, copyrights and trademarks

A one-of-a-kind product or the way it’s made has immense value to individuals and California businesses. The worth of those items decreases considerably when a copycat product appears on the market. Intellectual property protection is what stands between a singular product and thieves who would happily copy it for profit.

Possibly the most publicized arguments over intellectual property involve patents. Patents – obtained through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office – initially belong to an inventor, the person who creates a distinct process or product. The invention may not be so obvious that others easily could reproduce it.

Patent protection allows an inventor to make and market a creation for 20 years. Patents may be bought and sold. Unfortunately, sometimes they are also stolen by competitors.

The same is true for trademarks and copyrights. Trademarks surround and enhance a product. Logos, identifying words or phrases, and symbols like the checkmark swoosh that links a consumer’s mind with the shoemaker Nike are trademarks.

Copyrights keep original art, music, movies and written works from being duplicated by others. Portions of a copyrighted work may be reproduced as long as the owner is given credit.

A copyright lasts as long as the intellectual property owner is alive and 70 years beyond his death. Once the copyright time has expired, the original piece becomes part of the public domain. An author or artist’s works do not have to be published to have copyright protection.

Trademarks and copyrights are protected with or without government registration. Attorneys recommend registering both for maximum legal coverage.

Laws meant to stop people from capitalizing on intellectual properties are challenged daily. Los Angeles film makers lose rightful revenue every time someone downloads a pirated movie. Songwriters wedge snippets of someone else’s music in between notes. Technology companies accuse one another of stealing products.

Laws set the boundaries. Intellectual property attorneys help businesses make sure competitors recognize them.

Source: business.time.com, “Keeping Your Intellectual Property Safe,” Paul Shread, Feb. 28, 2013