Intellectual Property Attorney in Kansas City, Missouri
If you operate a business, chances are you’ve come up with something unique to your enterprise, whether it’s an idea, a logo or slogan, a unique way of doing things, or perhaps even an invention. All these things fall under what is legally known as intellectual property or IP.
The last thing you want is for some competitor or IP thief looking to make a profit off your ingenuity to come along and steal what you have. Fortunately, intellectual property has protection under the law.
However, if you need further protection, the United States offers copyright, trademark, and patent registration. These registrations do not mean others may not try to avail themselves of what you have, but it means you have the added protection afforded by the law.
If you have original work, logos, slogans, a patentable process, or device needing protection in Kansas City, Columbia, Springfield, or Rolla, Missouri, contact me at the Law Office of Julie Scott LLC. I can help protect what you’ve created and seek to defend you from others trying to take advantage of your hard work and ingenuity.
Intellectual Property Rights and Laws in the U.S.
The U.S. Constitution Article I, Section 8, declares: “Congress shall have Power . . . To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”
From this Article of our Constitution, Congress created copyright, trademark, and patent laws that are currently administered through the U.S. Copyright Office and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
Missouri has some limited codified protections for intellectual property that apply mainly to the entertainment industry. Section 570.225 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri states: “A person commits the offense of misappropriation of intellectual property if he or she, without the consent of the owner” records sounds and images of performance with the intent to sell it for a profit.
Intellectual Property Registration
Federal protections, enforceable in every state, extend to copyrights, trademarks, and patents. Copyrights are for works of creativity like books, songs and artwork. Trademarks cover slogans and logos. Patents are for inventions such as new devices and improved methods of doing things.
As mentioned earlier, registered copyrights are issued by the U.S. Copyright Office. A common law copyright exists for any original creative expression, but common law copyrights are harder to enforce. Registering with the Copyright Office provides further proof and legal protection, along with a permanent record of your ownership.
Examples of copyrightable materials include books, journals, photographs, visual art and sculpture, music, sound recordings, computer programs, websites, films, architectural drawings, and choreography.
Trademarks cover logos and slogans. For instance, the McDonald’s iconic M logo is protected by a trademark. Coca-Cola’s “It’s the Real Thing” is an example of a slogan that has been trademarked.
Some people may confuse the TM mark next to a logo or slogan as being proof of registration with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), but anyone can employ the TM symbol since it is available under what is called Common Law Trademark Rights.
Thus, you can place the mark on your slogan, “The Best Burger in Kansas City™,” but your right to the slogan (if no one else TM’d it before you did) would extend no farther than Kansas City, and in addition, you’d be on your own in defending it.
The use of TM is usually a prelude to seeking a registered – Circle R (®) – mark with the USPTO, which affords you nationwide legal protections for your logo, brand name, or slogan. Because websites can be viewed without geographic limitations if you have a website, it is a good business practice to seek a federal trademark registration.
As for patents that protect inventions, the USPTO recognizes three types of patents: Utility, Design, and Plant.
Utility patents are what most people think of when they hear the word “patent” – inventions, which include products, processes, and machines. These are inventions that solve a problem. A Design patent protects the visual ornamental characteristics of a physical product or applied to an article of manufacture. A Plant patent protects a new variety of plants that has been discovered and is “asexually reproduced”.
Licensing Your Intellectual Property to Others
Licensing of intellectual property is often thought to pertain only patents. But you can also license use of your trademarked slogan or logo for a joint marketing campaign or even confer on the licensing party full rights of use. You can also license your copyrighted work for development by others, which happens frequently in the entertainment industry.
For the most part, there are two types of licenses: exclusive and non-exclusive, though the two can exist at the same time if restricted by geographical boundaries.
Exclusive licensing means to confer exclusive rights to your intellectual property to one person or entity, but the license can be limited by territory and time. A non-exclusive means the owner can allow more than one licensee to the IP while retaining the right to use the IP. In both types of licenses, the licensor retains ownership of the patent, trademark, or copyright.
Licensing your product, design, or copyrighted material can accomplish several worthy goals. First, it can increase your revenue. In addition, it can extend your reach and limit your risk. Getting a new product or idea to market can be expensive.
Finally, licensing provides an option if someone infringes on your IP. Infringement lawsuits are expensive and can tie you up in court for a long time. Instead, you can try to work out a licensing arrangement with the infringer, saving both of you time and expense.
Both types of licenses, exclusive and non-exclusive, are revocable, as opposed to a transfer or assignment, in which the owner gives up all rights and ownership to the other party.
Intellectual Property Attorney Serving Kansas City, Missouri
The patent process itself is lengthy and complicated, and not a do-it-yourself proposition for most inventors. Defending a patent is also a complicated legal process, and if you do decide to enter into a licensing agreement for your intellectual property, you’ll want to make sure you have an ironclad contract protecting your ownership and rights. Bring your intellectual property questions or concerns to me at the Law Office of Julie Scott LLC. I proudly serve clients in Kansas City, Columbia, Springfield, and Rolla, Missouri.