Intellectual property (IP) refers to creations of the mind: inventions; literary and artistic works; and symbols, images, names and logos used in commerce. Businesses are often unaware that their business assets include IP rights.
Your intellectual property is a valuable intangible asset that should be protected to enhance your competitive advantage in the marketplace.
Stopfakes.gov is a one-stop shop for U.S. government tools and resources on intellectual property rights (IPR). You will find business guides, country toolkits, upcoming training events, and more on the site.
How to Protect your IP
IP includes copyrights, which cover works of authorship, such as books, logos and software. It also includes patents, which protect inventions. Other types of IP include trademarks, designs and trade secrets.
The first thing you need to do to safeguard your intellectual property is to file for protection in the United States. Your state’s bar association can recommend experienced lawyers who can help you with that.
Then you must be the first inventor to file for protection in the countries in which you currently do business, or are certain to do business in the future. You should also consider filing for protection in countries that are well-known for counterfeit markets.
If you do business in nations that have free trade agreements with the U.S., IP protections are built into those agreements, but you’ll still need to file in each country to get those protections.
Conversely, if you do business in any country in the European Union, you only need to file for protection with the EU – not every individual nation.
If you have a registered IP right in the United States, these protections are territorial and do not extend to foreign countries. Additionally, most countries are a “first to file” country for trademark registration and “first inventor to file” for patent registration and therefore grant registration to the first filer regardless of first use in the market.