Exposing Intellectual Property Myths

A Small-Business Guide to Intellectual Property is a recent article in the New York Times Small Business section that reviews some of the myths surrounding patents and trademarks, saying that it’s not just for large businesses.

I remembered it after reading about Microsoft’s injunction on selling it’s Word software due to patent infringement.

Some of the common fallacies that are explored are:

1. For small-business owners, it’s not worth the time or effort to secure intellectual property rights.

2. Once I get a trademark, my brand is safe.

3. Having a patent gives me the right to produce something.

4. If I have a patent or trademark in the United States, I don’t need to worry about the rest of the world.

5. People who collect patents but don’t actually make anything are “patent trolls,” parasites who can make money only by filing lawsuits against real businesses.

One of the subjects addressed was the fact the intellectual property doesn’t just mean patents (which can be expensive to file) but also trademarks, trade dress (a products look and feel) and Internet domain names.

In one example, a lady trademarked a term and someone monitoring the PTO web site bought the domain name of the trademarked term. Now, I don’t know if that’s legal but it’s going to be a legal hassle to get that domain name.

A word to the wise… purchase the domain names of any terms or phrases before you apply for the trademark.

The purpose of patents and trademarks is the protection of your intellectual property.  You then have the right to use it, license it or even give it away.

Now, don’t get me started on today’s ability to patent microbes or genes, but take a look at the article, do a cost benefit analysis for your business and take rational steps to research the matter. Don’t just assume that patents and trademarks are too expensive for small businesses.