The issue of intellectual property and its protection is a growing concern, and Deborah E. Bouchoux’s book, Protecting Your Company’s Intellectual Property: A Practical Guide to Trademarks, Copyrights, Patents & Trade Secrets (Amacom, $29.99), addresses this topic thoroughly. Bouchoux offers sound advice on not only protecting your intellectual property but also identifying exactly what your intellectual property is.
The author cites four key types of intellectual property: trademarks, copyrights, patents, and trade secrets. Bouchoux says intellectual property is a company’s “intangible assets,” which could include “noncomplex items such as customer lists, names of products, and anticipated marketing plans.”
Additionally, Bouchoux cites a growing subject of discourse within the area of intellectual property: the Internet. “The phenomenal growth in the use of the Internet and electronic commerce has led to a variety of new issues in trademark law,” writes Bouchoux. Probably the most pervasive issue is cybersquatting, which the author defines as “the bad faith registration of a domain name for the purpose of selling it to its rightful owner.” According to the author, in the early days of the Internet, about 250 domain names, including www.deltaairlines.com and www.neiman-marcus.com, were registered by one person. It was common then for cybersquatters to hold the names “hostage” for an exorbitant sum. Bouchoux points out that the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act of 1999 makes this illegal.
Some companies have assets that they might not realize are important to protect, says attorney Francine Ward, CEO of nCompliance Inc., a Mill Valley, California-based consulting firm that offers training and consulting in recognizing and protecting intellectual property and assistance in employment law. “It is critical that people who have property protect it,” she adds. Ward, a graduate of Georgetown University Law Center and a former practicing attorney in the field of intellectual property, also insists “one of the key things [to do] is let people know that the property belongs to you.” The best way is to protect your intellectual property by copyrighting it with the U.S. Copyright Office (www.loc.gov/-copyright) or trademarking it with the U.S. Patent Office (www.uspto.gov). Bouchoux’s book also offers information about how to apply for the patents and trademarks.
Guard What’s Yours
In addition to the U.S. Patent Office and the U.S. Copyright Office, there are numerous sites offering information on intellectual property. Consider the following:
FindLaw.com (www.findlaw.com). Whether you need an expert on intellectual property or simply want to read articles on the topic, you’ll find a wealth of information at FindLaw.com. The site also provides links to other legal sites, as well as business forms for each state.
Intellectual Property Law Server (www.intelproplaw.com). The site provides a good deal of legal information, links, and articles on intellectual property law, including patents, trademarks, and copyrights.
World Intellectual Property Organization (www.wipo.org). WIPO is an international organization dedicated to the protection of intellectual property, whether it’s art, science, or technology. More than 170 nations participate in WIPO.