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What to know about intellectual property laws

Intellectual property laws can be difficult for business owners in California to understand due to the variety of laws regarding patents, trademarks, trade secrets and copyright protection. Even though intellectual property laws can be complex, it is important for business owners to become familiar with these laws and how they can protect their businesses. It is also important to understand intellectual property laws to protect your business from costly lawsuits that can be a result of using another company's copyrighted or trademarked materials. 

Many business owners may think they know enough about intellectual property lawsuits and how to prevent them or use them to protect their business. However, many business owners can benefit from learning about common myths regarding intellectual property laws to put their business on the right track. 

Below is a list of common misconceptions regarding intellectual property laws and what business owners need to know: 

  • Employees' ideas belong to the company: intellectual property is only owned by your business if your contract with the employee specifically states they have full rights to their work. 
  • Businesses can use other pieces of work if it doesn't have a copyright symbol: materials can still have a copyright even if it doesn't have a symbol. 
  • Patents protect you worldwide: U.S. patents only protect patents in the U.S., not in other countries. 
  • Intellectual property markings can be used whenever: IP markings should be used properly and can result in fines if misused. 
  • The inventor will get the patent: the patent system awards the patent to the first company to file the patent, not to the company who invented it.

Understanding intellectual property laws and common misconceptions can help your business protect itself from lawsuits as well as know when to pursue a lawsuit against other companies. Business owners should be aware of how intellectual property laws can help their business and take steps now help their business achieve success. 

Source: Entrepreneur, "7 Persistent Myths About Intellectual Property," David G. Oberdick, March 18, 2014

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