Almost everyone has heard the term “intellectual property,” but not very many people truly know what it means and what its implications are. Here, then, is a rundown of what IP is, what it means to consumers and small businesses, and most importantly, how, why, and when an intellectual property lawyer should be consulted.
Intellectual property is a term that applies to a few different things, but at its core, it refers to any unique innovation, whether it is commercial or artistic (or both), or any unique business name, logo, symbol, or design.
The concept of IP goes dates back to the mid 1800s in Europe, but modern worldwide protections did not come into place until 1967 with the establishment of the World Intellectual Property Organization. The governments of most developed countries in the West protect intellectual property in the following ways:
- Patents for new inventions
- Trademark protection for business branding items such as logos, phrases, and images
- Copyrights for artistic expressions such as music, video, and visual patterns
- Trade Secrets that protect formulas or methods that have economic value and that are used commercially
Of the above, the three IP components that affect business owners most are trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets. These are in place to help protect the creations that are the life force of many a business, and this protection is a huge part of what allows a business that produces unique and innovative goods and services to truly prosper in a very competitive market.
This is true both for smaller, less established businesses, and for more famous products that are often counterfeited and sold illegally. New York intellectual property lawyers, for instance, have been known to keep especially busy due to the illegal production and sale of items such as counterfeit handbags in that city.
Smaller businesses with innovative products and services also often find that they need to retain intellectual property lawyers to stave off imitators, counterfeiters, and the like. It is very important for small businesses to establish themselves in a market first, and to do it legally and with the right paperwork, just in case they ever have to go to court to protect their innovations.
The right lawyers can help protect the rights of businesses and inventors by helping with the patent process, bringing cease and desist orders, and even lawsuits when necessary. They are also beneficial due to their experience and knowledge in navigating what can often be a confusing legal area.