What is Intellectual Property?

  Intellectual property is smart. It should be with a name like that. The way I like to start out explaining intellectual property other than with bad Dad jokes is that there is real property (like land) and then there are ideas, inventions, creations. These are things that are just as important and valuable that should be protected. The challenge for some is to grasp how something you draw that represents your business could be not only worth something, but worth protecting. And then I say words like Nike Swoosh or McDonald’s Golden Arch M and you go, “Ooooh ok then.”

   Maybe like me you watch Shark Tank and yell at the screen as if they can hear you. Me watching Shark Tank includes me yelling, “No, don’t listen to Mr. Wonderful right now.” Or, “Go with Lori! She’ll get you on QVC.” More importantly I’m often screaming, “You better have filed for intellectual property protection!” Notice how the Sharks are not just impressed by good presentations, good sales, and reasonable business evaluations-they are impressed when someone has intellectual property protection.

   So what does all of this mean? There are main types of intellectual property-patents, trademarks, and copyrights. Let’s go back to Nike for a moment. Think a Nike shoe that uses cutting edge materials and is 80’s fresh and super duper fly bright green and orange (Take my money!). The shoe design itself is the patent-most likely a design patent. The Nike Swoosh on the shoe is trademarked. Let’s call it the, “Running with the 80’s Fly Shoe.” That name will also be trademarked in addition to Nike’s name “Nike” of course. Stay with me...Now let’s say there’s a cool cartoon about this shoe and a jingle that goes, “I ran. I ran so fly today.” Those could be copyrighted. Obviously this is a simplistic definition and we can go more in depth.

   Filing intellectual property protection in any of these forms helps an inventor and/or business owner protect their assets from being used and/or watered down or copied. It allows for attorneys like me to write cease and desist letters to others using your intellectual property and tell them to stop today or yesterday! It helps with your branding process and business growth of your company. But, it could also serve as the means to license your products. For example, sports teams license their protected trademarked logos to clothing companies. These clothing companies have to pay fees to the logo owners. Can you imagine a world where you own all your creative intellectual property and it’s on record? You can tell someone else to stop using it. Or if they want to use it, they can be forced to not only ask you first, but to pay you a fee if you agree to this or another arrangement?

  So where do these applications go? Does a man with a giant beard in a booth decide whether or not my intellectual property is protected? Well close. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is in charge with receiving, processing, and granting patents and trademarks. The United States Copyright Office (USCO) is similarly in charge of Copyrights.

  At Rational Unicorn we can file your business name as a standard word trademark and we can file your figurative/logo mark. We can also file copyrights for various pieces of literature, art, and don’t forget-your jingles. And before doing so, we can discuss IP Law in general and how it applies to your business and do a knock-out search to make sure that you’re not already using someone else’s intellectual property. It’s better to find this out now than later. It wouldn’t be cool to have to pick a new name and logo as your business starts or is taking off. Just like they say it’s best to be on the right side of history, it’s also good to be on the right side of intellectual property.

   The USPTO puts out a variety of resources like videos talking about trademarks. If you can get past the cheesiness, they are actually quite helpful. Here is the link:

   https://www.uspto.gov/trademarks-getting-started/trademark-basics

   Contact us today to schedule for a no-cost 30 minute consult. Let’s primarily talk about intellectual property and maybe take an occasional break to talk about not so intellectual, but delicious things like pie.

Michael Jonas