Intellectual Property has three main categories and there can be confusion as to which category your material would fall under. We have clients asking for patent registration for designs, copyright registration for ideas and so on.
Distinction between different kinds of IP is important to ensure that you have the right protection for your asset.
Copyrights exist in the creative execution of ideas, such as design, literature, art or music. Copyright ownership essentially comes into effect once the work has been fixed in a tangible form, on paper or in a recording and it does not require registration to be protectable. However there lies the risk that if your copyright is breached and there will be no means to prove that the infringing copy was created subsequent to the original. Therefore to strengthen protection for valuable work copyrights registration is advised. The limited duration of a copyright is specified by the laws in different jurisdictions.
An interesting concept to understand in copyright is the idea-expression dichotomy, which basically protects ideas against exclusive ownership. There can in fact be no protection for a mere idea but only the expression of an idea. For instance, if an app is conceptualized in conversation amongst friends, regardless of whom the idea originated from, it remains open for others to create. Protection is only offered to the originality with which the said idea is expressed, hence the proliferation of multiple applications which serve the same purpose.
A Trademark is word/symbol/design or logo (‘Apple’, ‘Coca-Cola’, ‘Shell’) which identifies a business or a brand and they must be distinct and original allowing for consumers to differentiate one from the other. Trademarks once registered remain protected provided they remain in active use. Trademarks can be used without registration but similar to copyright TM protection is key to maintaining the integrity of and control over the trademark.
Patents are limited to inventions, technological or scientific, they can be claimed in creation of machines, medicines, processes etc. Patent protection is issued in exchange for public disclosure of the said invention and will prevent others from recreating the invention for a period of time, which varies according to the patent type and the jurisdiction. As copyrights require originality in expression, trademarks require distinction, a patent requires a level of inventiveness or non-obviousness to warrant registration and protection. A patent will not be granted protection if it only unveils an easily decipherable process.
The level, duration and rights associated with your IP Protection will vary according to the governing law and it is advisable to have your IP registered early on in your jurisdiction and those you may foresee expanding into.