Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Frequently Asked Questions: Protecting Your Ideas

If you have recently come up with a good idea, you may wonder if you can get legal protection in order to prevent others from using or stealing it. Protection for ideas falls under the category of Intellectual Property, which includes copyrights, patents, trademarks and trade secrets. Determining whether your idea or project qualifies for protection through copyright, patent or trademark law depends on the form your project or idea takes.

Copyright protection applies to creative expression, such as music, art, books, photography, movies and dances. It should be clarified that copyright does not cover ideas and information themselves, only the form or manner in which they are expressed.

Trademarks are marks that are used to show where a service or product comes from and to distinguish those products and services from others. Examples of trademarks include most brand names and logos.

Patents are used to protect inventions. A patent is a right given by a government which allows the inventor to prevent other people from using his idea for a certain period of time. In order to get the patent rights from the government, the inventor must disclose his idea.

Trade Secrets are formulas, processes, practices or compilations of information that companies seek to keep secret in order to obtain competitive advantages. Trade secrets are generally protected by private contracts and agreements.