How to Make Money From Your Invention (Chapter 3, Parts 2-4) - Types of Protection
2. Trade Secrets
A Trade Secret is defined as: “any formulation, pattern, device or compilation of information which is used in a business and gives the owner an opportunity to obtain an advantage over competition who do not know or use it. It may be a formula for a chemical compound, a process of manufacturing, treating or preserving materials. a pattern for a machine or other device or simply a list of customers.”
Trade secrets are novel since they are not known by the general public at large and are not readily known to be practiced. They are generally kept as trade secrets since an issued patent might provide information that this invention is being used commercially. If it is not readily obtainable by your competition, it is a trade secret.
Also unlike patents, trade secrets last as long as the holder is able to maintain their secrecy. There are also no restrictions on others developing and using the information independently.
Trade secrets are subject to certain standards in order to keep that classification. They must be kept secret and reasonable efforts must be made to maintain the secrecy. Procedures must be in place to insure that the information is kept confidential.
A trademark is any word, name, symbol or device used to identify the source of goods or services and to distinguish the goods and services from others. Trademarks may be registered with the federal government, all state governments and most foreign countries.
In the United States, a trademark is protected for ten years if it was registered after November 16, 1989. The mark can be renewed indefinitely for ten year periods provided that the mark continues to be used in commerce. If registered before the 1989 date, the term was twenty years, renewable.
Copyright is a form of protection provided for authors of original works of authorship that are fixed in tangible form. Copyrightable works include literature, computer programs, architectural works, pictorial and sculptural works, musical works, etc.
Copyrights protection begins as soon as the work is fixed in a tangible medium. The US Copyright Act also provides for registration of these rights. Once filed, it becomes a public record and can be used as evidence in infringement suits.
The Library of Congress registers copyrights in the United States. Requirements are a fee of $30 accompanied with the appropriate filled out form and a non-returnable copy of the work being registered.
If the work was created on or after January 1, 1978, copyright protection extends for the life of the last of the authors, if multiple creators, plus seventy years. There are some complicated rules for works created before the 1978 date.
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This information is presented for the general education of independent inventors by the Invention Patenting Group. The Invention Patenting Group makes no warranty, express or implied, or assumes any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, apparatus, product, or process disclosed herein, or represents that its use would not infringe privately owned rights. Reference herein to any specific commercial product, process or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer or otherwise, does not necessarily constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the Invention Patenting Group.