Intellectual property laws are extremely complex and require a lot of background knowledge and expertise and the risk of not protecting your idea correctly could cost you everything. If you’re fuzzy on the difference between Trademark, Patent and Copyright and what you need, contact a Scottsdale patent lawyer to help save your assets.
Protect your Assets
Long story short, to protect your assets from all angles, many professionals might suggest getting a combination of the three. Infact, a lot of major corporations will patent and trademark their ideas and products which protects not only the product or idea itself but also how it’s used. Not all three can be used interchangeably, so it’s important to know which apply to your product and how to get the right protection.
When to Patent Your Idea
Trademarking your brand before you launch your products is the best way to safeguard all your property. This also prevents anyone from getting wind of your idea and beating you to the punch. Additionally, this gives you extra time to perfect your specific product before you patent it. Patenting is important because it prevents anyone over the span of 20 years from selling or stealing your product and trying to make it different or better. This double whammy protects your idea and brand (trademark) and the product (patent).
When to File for Trademark
Even though you’ll have limited protection from common law rights, it’s still best to trademark your brand, but when? If you choose to wait until after your brand is launched, you risk a fellow entrepreneur stealing your idea in another state (quite possibly unintentionally). You could do it at the same time you file your business license, but the best option is to do it before you open your doors.
This kind of trademark application is called Intent-to-Use. While this is a more costly approach, the few extra hundred dollars are well worth it to protect your business venture. You can also include multiple items on your ITU application which helps to cover all your bases in case you aren’t sure exactly which direction your brand is heading. You can even use this option before you have adequate funding which gives you extra time to develop and test all your products.
Common Law Rights
In the US, once you have filed for a business license and begin selling your product on the market, you have limited protection under common law rights. This is basic protection with a lot of limitations and is confined to the locale of business and is not federally protected.
For example, if you open a jewelry boutique in Scottsdale, Arizona, common law rights prevent someone else from opening a business under the same name but only in the state of Arizona. Before social media and online ordering, this may have not been a big deal but if you want to reach a larger market, having multiple businesses with the same name can wreak havoc on your online presence.
The reverse can also happen and be just as costly. If you don’t federally trademark your brand and someone else does, no matter how long you’ve been in business you can be sued and forced to change your brand. For these reasons, it’s best practice to file for a trademark at the same time (or before) you file for your business license.
The quick answer is, in many cases you should trademark before you launch your brand and then patent your product. But when it comes to intellectual property legalities, it’s always best to consult with a Scottsdale patent lawyer. They can best lay out the right path for you and help you along the way.