What are the different types of intellectual property options open to me?

When people talk about intellectual property (IP), they can mean any one of these three things:

  • Patents (Utility or Design)
  • Trademarks
  • Copyrights

A utility patent covers the technical aspect of an invention and is supposed to disclose the invention at a sufficient level of detail to enable someone who is reasonably skilled in the art to replicate this invention.

A design patent protects the exact manifestation of the invention in form factor.

Trademarks are very necessary to protect your company's name and logo. Typically you need a word mark to cover the actual name, and a design mark to cover any glyph incorporated into the design. Once you file for a trademark, there are special rules on how you are supposed to mark the mark on any documentation (physical or digital) - your IP attorney can help you with this.

It is important to make sure your company name is not already trademarked by someone else who is too close to your chosen industry - you can figure out whether your company name is OK by doing a prior art search.

Copyright covers text and imagery and for an early stage startup, it mostly requires you to make sure your website has the right copyright notice in the footer.

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