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The Final Factors: Your IP Protection Choices
So you have your menu—and now need to choose which form of IP protection to use for your bottle or other idea. Of course if you have all the time and money in the world, maybe you can do it all. But since the question really is about business, it's important to consider what works for you before starting the final processes to protect your IP.
You're a business-person, and to sleep easier know you must choose wisely. What will it cost? How long will it take to get? How long will it last? Most important, what do you really need in terms of protection?
If the design of your product is something you don't really expect to last forever (as styles change), say it's going to be the latest hot portable media player, maybe a design patent is just the thing. It lasts 14 years and while a bit pricey offers potentially strong protection during its term.
For something a little more "artistic," like a delightful cartoon character who will appear in movies, books and other entertainment content, copyright is the top choice. Filing is relatively simple and inexpensive, though it may require filing separately for each individual work. And if someone wants to appropriate the character, or do a knock-off, the threat of infringement actions would be a pretty effective deterrent. Oh, and although the protection will expire, it's really long enough that you can get a lot of milage out of it (for you as an individual, life plus 70 means never having to worry about expiration).
Of course, if your little cartoon friend can be associated with goods and services, that may be where the the real money can be made. And branding says pretty loud and clear: trademark. Unlike the other forms of protection, trademark registrations don't have to expire as long as you're willing to file forms and pay fees; something you might consider OK as long as you're making money from your mark. Plus, if your business is successful there's the opportunity to register the mark for additional goods and services in the future.
Well, perhaps some of this string of entries has been a bit of a frolic and detour. So by way of reminder, I'd just like to return to where we started: Richard Stim's book Patent, Copyright and Trademark where you can expect to find a considerably more authoritative description of the various forms of IP protection. Do check it out!
It's that time again—after a hiatus of one year, next week (April 11-15) is scheduled as the Patent and Trademark Depository Library training seminar at the USPTO in Alexandria, Virginia. Since as of this posting we have been informed that the conference will take place even if the government shuts down, I hope to have something to report here soon...