When companies in California and other states are starting up and looking for potential investors, it is important for them to know whether they have intellectual property rights to the products or services that shape their businesses. A number of companies make mistakes with paperwork for intellectual property rights, and their inventions, trade secrets or copyrighted material actually belong to the people who created them instead of the companies. Before investors will put money into a company, they often ask in-depth question about how companies secured intellectual property rights to an invention or idea.
Companies can gain intellectual property rights through agreements with their employees or contractors. Founders of different businesses need to make sure that their workers sign their documents right away and understand that their work will be owned by the companies so that no misunderstandings develop later about to whom a patent or copyright belongs. Companies should keep information about intellectual property rights in their files and business plans.
Federal patent, copyright and trade secret laws protect intellectual property rights. Patents are generally good for 20 years. Trademarks, which protect symbols, recipes, phrases, certain sounds or designs, last for ten years and can be renewed. Copyrights protect ideas, expressions and written works are good for the creator’s life plus 50 additional years.
Documentation for patents, trademarks and copyrights needs to show that a product is unique and belongs to an individual or company. Creators or companies need to file these documents within a certain frame of time, usually within a year of a product’s or idea’s creation. An attorney with experience with intellectual property rights might be able to assist a company in filling out the right legal documents and going through the extensive process of getting a patent, trademark or copyright. American Intellectual Property Law Association, 2012
Source: Techli , “Reality Check: Does Your Company Own The Intellectual Property You Think It Does?“, December 24, 2013