What is Intellectual Property?

What is the difference between trademarks, patents and copyrights?

A trademark protects names, words, slogans, logos which are used to represent the types of goods or services offered by the company or individual. If the logo, word mark or slogan is trademarked, no other competitor can use the exact same one. A patent protects an invention, if an individual or company creates a new product, for example, a flying car, they will protect the certain mechanism invented to make this possible by patenting it. This way no other person can create the invention and sell it as his/her/their own. A copyright refers to the protection of a creative or artistic work. This could be a book, a song, an article, a script etc. If the work is copy written, no other individual can copy the work and pass it as their own.

What do the TM, ®, © and "Pat. Pend." symbols mean? When can I use them? Should I use them?

The TM symbol means that the trademark is in the process of being registered. As soon as the application is filed with the registrar, the person/company can use the TM symbol. The registration usually takes about a year. The ® symbol means that the Trademark is registered. Once it is registered it will be valid for 10 years before it will need to be renewed again. The © symbol represents the copyright. The symbol represents protection and is usually at the bottom page of an article, book, script, song etc this informs people that the work is copy written. Pat. Pend. Means that the patent is in the process of being registered, this is used when the patent it initially filed.

I am in the process of picking a name for my new business – what should I keep in mind to pick a good, protectable name?

Before the company can be registered, you first need to come up with a name. CIPC allows for four names to be submitted and checked. They check and approve from the first name to the last name. If the first name is approved they will not check the next name. You can only apply for the registration once one of the names are approved. What you need to keep in mind when trying to pick a good, protectable name is it needs to be creative, as descriptive as possible and different. The name cannot be similar to that of an already registered company. Always do some research before applying; Google may not always be 100% accurate but doing as much research as possible his highly advised. SwiftReg can assist with the submission of names and the registration.

I often find good pictures or quotes on the Internet – can I use them in my own marketing materials? Does it make a difference if I make sure to give credit to the source? Is it a problem if I’m using "clip art" for my business logo?

We do not advise using an image from the internet, clip art or any other image from another company. The only way to use an image from a company is to have written consent or a contract written up between both parties. There can be some serious legal repercussions if you are using someone’s image that has been trademarked as it is protected. You cannot give credit to the source if they have not allowed you to use their images, quotes etc. You need to come up with your own branding materials to make your brand stand out and become well known by customers. We would not suggest using clip art for a logo as this does not individualize your brand. You wouldn’t want the company to be associated with a clip art image that any bob could copy. Always create your own images and logos that way you can trademark them and protect them. You want your business to stand out, SwiftReg can assist in creating a professional logo and website from your ideas.

What is a trade secret?

A trade secret is something a company or sole proprietor would keep a secret. It can be a technique used by the company in their trade to manufacture their products. They will not share it with other companies or individuals as this will not keep them a step ahead of their competition. Some trade secrets are not allowed to be shared with others; companies can have them sign a non disclosure agreement. If the person breaks this agreement the company can take lawful action against them.

Does intellectual property have to be copyrighted?

Intellectual property does not need to be copyrighted. It is not compulsory, but it is advisable to do so. If you have created an artistic work would you not want to protect it? If you have not copy written the work, any individual can copy it and pretend it’s theirs. The best thing to do would be, once creating said work, have it copy written that way you know that no one else can profit from it. If anyone else does, you can sue them. If it is not copyrighted then anyone can use your work and act as if it’s their own.

What is intellectual property protection?

Intellectual property protection is the protection of any names, images, logos, slogans, literary works, songs, books, articles, symbols, artistic works etc; any work that has been created by the mind. You can protect intellectual property by using certain types of protection depending on what it is. You would use a patent for an invention. A trademark would be used to protect a name, word, logo, slogan etc. A copyright would be used to protect written work such as books, articles, songs etc. Intellectual property protection would be anything that you have designed and want to protect from any other party using or copying the exact same thing and profiting off it.

What is an intellectual property right?

Intellectual property right is the right given to the individual/company who has created the design from their mind. They will have exclusive rights to their creation be it a word, slogan, logo, literary or artistic design. It’s usually covered for a certain period of time; no other party can use your design in any way, shape or form for profit. You have the sole ownership of your intellectual property should you register it by trade marking, patenting, or copywriting. This is the only way you will have intellectual property right.

Can you sell intellectual property?

You can sell intellectual property. If you have decided you no longer need it or want it and have had no success trying to exploit it you can sell it to an interested party. You will get paid for the time and money it took to develop the intellectual property. Once the buyer has successfully paid for this, and it becomes their intellectual property they can use it in any way they please. You will not have any ownership or responsibility over this once sold.

What are examples of intellectual property?

There are different types of intellectual property, this being trade secrets, trademarks, copyrights and patents. There are also different examples of intellectual property. One example is a design patent, this is ornamental design on manufactured products. Another example would be tangible inventions, which can be a useful process, a machine, device or a type of material. A new variety of plant can also have a plant patent.

What is the difference between intellectual property and copyright?

The book definition for the difference between intellectual property and copyright could seem quite similar. Intellectual property is simply explained as anything that comes from original creative thought. A copyright is the protection for exclusivity on a literary work to copy, license and profit from any musical or artistic work by law.

Is music intellectual property?

Music, if written by yourself and from your own creativity is indeed intellectual property. If a musician or music writer comes up with lyrics to a song this would have been from their own creativity and artistry. The best thing to do would be to copyright any form of works once completed so no other party can exploit, profit or copy the lyrics or music. There are words in music, but there are also notes and keys. Any song written using the notes and or keys can also be protected by a copyright.

What is the intellectual property rights law?

Intellectual property rights law protects any intellectual property, being inventions, designs and/or artistic works. The law protects it in the same way it would protect any personal property owned by a company/individual. If there’s any competition, the law protects any person that has rights to their intellectual property. The rights are held exclusively by the person or company.

What are intellectual property rights?

Intellectual property rights are the right to full ownership of said property, this can be any artistic work written from one’s own imagination. These rights protect any other entity, person or company copying or exploiting your work for their own gain or profit. No other individual can publish your work or images anywhere for their business. For example, if you had a logo you have designed and trademarked, no other company could use it on their website. They can, however either buy it from you or draw up an agreement to use the logo on their website. This would have to be done under your permission only.

How long does copyright last?

A copyright will last for the entire author’s lifetime. Once the author has passed away, by the end of that year it will be protected for a further 50 years. Once the document is published and copy written, by doing this, you have ensured your work is protected for your entire life time.

How many types of patents are there?

There are various types of patents. These include provisional, PCT/international and complete/national phase patents. A provisional patent is a patent that requires less effort and expense than that of a formal patent. This is the quickest way to apply for a patent, as well as more affordable. It does save a filing date which helps in receiving a patent. A PCT/international patent is an international patent. It is a patent that needs to be applied for in each respecting country, city or state. A complete/national phase patent is when the patent is registered after the PCT procedure is complete. This takes around 1 to 2 years. You will now start to pursue the patents directly with the national patent offices of the specific country you have applied for.

Is software apart of intellectual property?

Software is a part of intellectual property, there are four types of intellectual property that are relevant to software. Trademarks, trade secrets, copyrights and patents can all be relevant to software. A copyright can protect a computer program but it is advisable to patent the apparatus using the computer software or software related inventions. It is best to do research and find out what it is you are trying to protect, as the different types of intellectual property protect specific things.

What do I need to patent an idea?

The first step to take to patent an idea would be to record each and every step or process of the idea. The patent will need to qualify for patent protection; this means that the idea needs to be new and useful. You will need to do market research to find out what the value of your idea is. Then, do a patent search. You need to ensure that there are no other patents which match your idea. Once all of the above have been handled, you can file the patent application with CIPC, the registrar.

How do you patent an idea in South Africa?

There are three steps that need to be taken in order to apply for a patent in South Africa. You can apply for the patent on CIPC or get assistance from a company. You have the choice of using an attorney. A provisional application will need to be filed; then, you will need to file a complete application. This does need to be signed by a patent attorney. If it is applicable, you will need to file a PCT (Patent Cooperation Treaty), this you will only be required to do if requested by CIPC.

What is a poor man’s patent?

A poor man’s patent, is a letter drafted by yourself detailing the invention you would like to patent. You then seal the letter in an envelope and post it to yourself. The date on the postmark would be seen as the date of commencement. The date on the envelope proves the invention was in your possession. This is more of an "old wives tale" without the filing of the patent with CIPC, and if the steps are not followed, the patent will not be legal and it will not be protected in any shape or form. It will also not display on any database for searching purposes on patents that are similar. You could end up losing a great idea or someone could have already invented this product and you’re actually stealing their idea, without being are of it. You need to first do a patent search, once detailing all the steps taken for the invention. Then submit your application, once this is done you can do a search to see if there are any similar patents or inventions out there. You will need a patent attorney will need to sign the completed application that will be submitted to CIPC. Once your patent is protected it will last for 20 years. It needs to be renewed annually before the expiration of the third year from date of filing. There is an annual fee to be paid to keep the status of the patent active, similar to that of annual returns. It will simply keep the patent active; the patent will expire after 20 years.

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