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IP Forms and Contracts

Intellectual property (IP) covers specific types of protections for a small business. This helps protect valuable assets. There are three types of IP: copyrightspatents, and trademarks. These protections stem from intellectual property rights (IP rights).

Each of these areas of intellectual property law protects different things. This can be confidential information or trade secrets. Other times this information ranges from business logos, technical data, and computer programs. Intellectual property laws are difficult to understand. Each has its own requirements and procedures to protect your intellectual property.

Here, you can find forms and other templates related to intellectual property. These forms can help you gain know-how about the different types of intellectual property. These documents include:

Copyrights

Copyrights are available for original works of authorship in a tangible form ("fixed"). Copyright protection is available to many creative works, including:

  • Literary works
  • Paintings
  • Software
  • Live performances
  • Sound recordings
  • Photographs
  • Movies
  • Musical works

It's important to remember that copyright laws protect the actual work. The U.S. Copyright Office cannot issue copyrights for the work's underlying ideas, techniques, concepts, or facts. This is the reason why a work must first be in a fixed tangible form. An example is a story written on paper.

IP ownership belongs to the individual or small business owner when created. Federal registration of the copyright must occur before a copyright infringement lawsuit can get filed. When a work receives copyright protection, the copyright owner has certain exclusive rights over the work. They can sell the work, reproduce the work, create derivative works (works based on the original work), and display or perform the work publicly. The copyright owner also has the right to transfer all or part of their exclusive rights in the copyrighted work. Written agreements like a license agreement or assignment agreement allow the owner to transfer or lease the work to another.

Patents

Patents are the only type of intellectual property that requires federal registration for protection. Patent law demands a patent application on file and granted. The only way patent protection occurs is through the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Patents protect inventions and new discoveries and come in three forms: utility, design, and plant patents.

Utility patents are the most common type of patent. They are available for new or improvements to processes, machines, manufacturing, and compositions of matter. Design patents protect new and non-obvious "surface ornamentations" or configurations of an object. Plant patents are available for inventions or discoveries of new and distinct plants. The plants are created or discovered, often through asexual reproduction.

Trademarks

Trademark protection is available in connection with goods or services for:

  • Names
  • Words
  • Devices
  • Symbols
  • Short phrases
  • Scents

This is an important form of protection for businesses. It allows them to distinguish their goods or services from other businesses in their field. Trademark protection is acquired through the legitimate use of the mark in association with goods or services. There are common law trademark considerations. Trademark registration with the USPTO is not required to receive trademark protection. However, federal registration grants national protection and allows the trademark holder to file for international protection with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

Internal Forms of Intellectual Property

Small business owners also should consider protecting their business work product inside the company. Confidentiality agreements prevent potential partners or investors from disclosing information. This information is important to discuss during meetings to third parties. However, a business does not want that information in the public. Employment agreements help explain what intellectual property belongs to the company. This way there is no employee confusion or disputes down the road.

Hiring an Attorney

Intellectual property can be a technical and complex area of law for most people to understand. For questions related to trademarks, you can contact a trademarks attorney for legal advice. The advice will depend on your situation. Questions about copyrights should go to an intellectual property attorney. Patents usually require a technical background in addition to knowledge of the law. It's best to contact a patent attorney for assistance or guidance.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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