Intellectual property is one of the most valuable assets for a small business that can help in competing against larger market players. Your business can achieve exclusive brand recognition and market dominance through the strategic handling of your company’s intangible assets.
By hiring the services of an experienced intellectual property attorney, you can develop and protect your IP assets while establishing yourself as an industry expert. Loopholes in intellectual property ownership can create legal issues, which may have distracting and financially damaging consequences for small business owners.
What Does Intellectual Property Cover?
Intellectual property refers to the “creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names, and images used in commerce” as per the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). These usually include copyrights, patents, database rights, moral rights, inventions, and trademarks.
Intellectual Property Laws for Small Businesses in Alabama
Copyright is done for protecting any type of original work, including music, books, social media, photos, and research. Anything that falls under the definition of “creative expression” is protected by the US Copyright Office through copyright laws. Small businesses need to register their copyright as per the laws to protect against infringement.
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (DMCA) employs the guidelines listed by the World International Property Organization (WIPO) to allow copyright protection. This is a major revision of copyright laws in the US, which now allows member countries to protect the rights of computer databases and programs among other works.
The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is responsible for administering the Trademark Act of 1946. Trademarks can be in the form of a word, design, symbol, phrase, or a combination of these. It identifies and distinguishes the products of a company from others.
Trademarks are the same as service marks, except they are used for distinguishing services. Small businesses should be aware that while they can register their trademark with the USPTO, the law doesn’t necessarily allow the use of the trademark. There are several marks that can’t be protected, such as the word ‘milk.’
Patents are more diverse and complex as compared to copyrights and trademarks. The America Invents Act (AIA) made several amendments to the US patent law and dramatically changed the manner in which these are filed.
Patents grant property rights to inventors for inventing new, useful, and original products, designs, processes, and plants. Inventors have the right to prevent others from using, making, selling, or offering to sell the invention.
Trade Secret Laws
Trade secrets are the information that a business wants to keep confidential because of economic value. Formulas for making a product, app, computer program, technique, methods, and processes are common examples of trade secrets. The Economic Espionage Act (EEA) of 1996 makes it illegal to steal or misappropriate trade secrets. In 2016, Defend Trade Secrets Act was set up to let small businesses pursue private civil action against theft.
Intellectual Property Infringement in Alabama
Intellectual property (IP) infringement takes place when a protected work is copied or used without the owner’s consent. Federal law enforces the unauthorized use of intellectual property, which can have serious consequences for small and large businesses. This includes damage to the company’s reputation, financial penalties, and criminal charges.
Avoiding Intellectual Property Infringement
Small businesses should take measures to prevent their innovations from getting stolen or copied. You can also avoid committing IP fraud by building a successful IP management strategy. In many cases, IP frauds are committed unknowingly and unintentionally.
These are a few tips for preventing intellectual property infringement:
- IP audit: You should conduct a thorough IP audit to identify potential assets and any related threats.
- Established IP protections: You should register your copyrights, patents, and trademarks for establishing public ownership of creative innovations and assets.
- Monitor competition: You should keep an eye on industry competitors to detect any intellectual property theft before it does any real damage.
- Use media wisely: You should create original content, graphics, and music for advertisements. If not, you should stick to royalty-free media.
- Train employees: Small businesses should conduct organization-wide programs for bringing awareness about IP laws and infringement consequences.
If you have been accused of IP infringement or believe that your business’ IP has been compromised, you should speak with an intellectual property attorney immediately.
There are special considerations to be taken into account if you are entering foreign markets or looking at an acquisition or merger. IP rights are usually only valid in the US or the country they are granted in. They don’t get transferred automatically when a company is taken over. While selling your business, you should factor in the value of your IP rights in the final sale price.
Intellectual property protections are taken seriously by both state and federal governments since they create jobs, advance economic growth, and help in solving problems that have an effect on communities. Your business can play an essential role in supporting economic growth and global innovation by using, understanding, and respecting different types of IP.
Get Trusted Legal Advice from Our Seasoned Intellectual Property Attorneys
The proven intellectual property attorneys at the BHM Law Group have specialized knowledge about intellectual property and how it affects small businesses. Our business litigation attorneys will understand your operations and support your growth.
To set up your free, no-obligation initial consultation with us, call us at (205) 964-9764 or reach us online.