Let’s start with a painful truth: an idea alone is not intellectual property. For example, an idea for a book doesn’t count, but the words you’ve written do. That being said, knowing how to protect your idea can save you a lot of time and money.
As stated, intellectual property law can protect the development of an idea and the way of expressing it. Thus, certain aspects of intellectual property law such as copyright, patents, designs, or trade secrets, can provide you with protection.
Having the right type of intellectual property protection helps you to stop people stealing or copying: the names of your products or brands, your inventions, the design or look of your products, things you write, make or produce.
Copyright, patents, designs, trademarks are all types of intellectual property, which can grant you protection automatically or by applying for it.
Copyright protects the expression of ideas. It grants an owner exclusive rights to exploit their original work and use it in any way they wish. But in order to fall under the copyright protection, the work must be original. Copyright does not stop someone from using your idea and expressing it differently.
A patent protects inventions relating to: products, methods, apparatus, materials or processes. It provides the owner of a patent with legally enforceable rights to exploit their invention commercially. Eligibility for patent protection depends on the invention being new, useful and inventive or innovative. Unlike copyright, it is necessary to apply for a patent in order to gain rights. This process usually is both complex and expensive. Still, the patent protection grants you have a monopoly over that invention for up to 20 years.
The process of registering a design protects the features of a product that gives it a unique appearance. For example, the design for an aesthetically distinctive perfume bottle. Like patents, the design must be registered and the design must be new and distinctive. Therefore, it cannot be identical to another design or substantially similar in its overall impression.
Any secret commercial information that provides a business with an advantage over another is a trade secret. Trade secrets include manufacturing methods, product formulas and business strategies. The main advantage of a trade secret is that, unlike other protections, it protects an idea and information rather than the expression of the idea. Also, there is no time limit on the protection; it lasts for as long as you maintain it confidential.
What has to be done in order to maintain it? The answer is short and simple: contractual agreements. For example: restraints of trade, non-disclosure agreements, or specific clauses in employment or service agreements.
In conclusion, while you cannot protect mere ideas, turning your idea into something more tangible can provide you with protection. Expressing your idea also allows for automatic copyright protection. Further, you can protect your idea as commercial information or trade secrets via contracts. If you have a great idea, you may need to develop it or express it in order to obtain protection through intellectual property rights.
If you have any questions or need assistance protecting your ideas, get in touch with us.