Patents, Trademarks, and Copyright

Intellectual property is a term used to describe trade secrets, patents, trademarks, and copyright. Protecting your intellectual property is an important part of your business, particularly if you are looking to trademark your business' name, symbol, motto etc., or if your business is based on an invention or involves writing and producing original written works, music, or video content.

The following resources provide an overview of intellectual property:

Basic Patent and Trademark Information

To patent an invention or register a trademark, you'll need to fill out an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The following guides provide more detail about registering patents and trademarks:

Patents

Trademarks

Copyright

If your business involves creating original written works, music, or videos, they are covered by copyright laws. Copyright is a form of protection provided to the authors of original works of authorship, both published and unpublished, for a limited period of time. Copyright is granted by the U.S. Copyright Office.

Digital works, including those published on the Internet are protect by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Visit the Digital Rightspage for information on how the DMCA applies to online businesses.

Trade Secrets

A trade secret is information that has value because it is not generally known and is the subject of efforts to keep it secret. State law protects against disgruntled ex-employees, sabotage by current employees, or simple carelessness about the risk and possible protections of your trade secrets. Protection for trade secrets does not expire, as it does for copyright. As long as the owner makes reasonable efforts to keep the information secret, the information is protected.

You can protect your trade secrets by requiring employees and others with whom you share the information to sign a nondisclosure agreement (NDA). SCORE provides the following resources on how to protect your trade secrets using a non-disclosure agreement:

 

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