Patent, copyright, trademark—Do you have these business assets?

Logos, brand names, inventions, designs, and customer data can all be valuable business assets. These assets can be protected through intellectual property (IP) rights known as patents, trademarks, industrial designs, copyrights and trade secrets.

Do you have these intellectual property assets?

Not sure what IP business assets you have? Take a look at the common business assets listed below to see what types of IP can protect them.

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Business name

Your business name may also be your trademark.

Your business name is the name under which you conduct business. It may also be an IP asset of your company. If you use your business name to differentiate your products and services from those of your competitors, your business name is also working as your trademark.

Here is an example:
If your business name is GoTax Ltd. and you sell tax software under the brand name GoTax, then GoTax is your trademark.

Registering your business name does not mean you automatically have trademark rights. If you are using your business name as your trademark, you can also register your business name as a trademark. Registering your trademark will give you exclusive rights to it in Canada for at least 15 years (you can renew it indefinitely as long as it is still being used).

Brand names or logos

Your brand name and logo are your trademarks.

A brand name or logo is how consumers identify your products and services in the marketplace. As your products and services begin developing reputations, your brand value increases.

Brand names and logos are IP assets (trademarks) worth protecting. Registering your trademark gives you 15 years of exclusive rights to use it, and you can renew it indefinitely, as long as you are still using the trademark.

Slogans

A slogan is a catchy phrase often used to differentiate your products and services from those of your competitors.

Slogans are IP assets (trademarks) worth protecting. Registering your trademark gives you at least 15 years of exclusive rights to the use of it, and you can renew it indefinitely as long as it is still being used.

Domain names

Your domain name may also be your trademark.

A domain name is the web address of your business. Your domain name may also be an IP asset of your company. If you use the domain name to differentiate your products and services from those of your competitors, your domain name is also working as your trademark.

Here is an example:
You are a tax software company that provides online and downloadable income tax software at gotax.com. Your software options are called GoTax, GoTaxPlus, GoTaxExtra. In this case, GoTax, GoTaxPlus and GoTaxExtra are your trademarks.

Registering your trademark gives you 15 years of exclusive rights to the use of it, and it can be renewed.

New products

You could obtain a patent or industrial design registration on your new products.

Design

If you have designed a new product with a unique look or packaging, you may be able to protect it through industrial design registration. The interface design of a computer tablet and the design of a spice mill are examples of registered designs. Registration allows you up to 10 years to prevent others from making, using or selling it.

Invention

If you have invented a new product with unique functionality, it may be IP that can be protected through a patent. A multipoint touchscreen tablet and a spice mill that grinds spice in a new way are examples of patented inventions. If your product invention is useful, new and inventive, consider applying for patent protection.

Patent rights allow you, the owner, up to 20 years to prevent others from making, using or selling your invention.

Inventions

You may be able to obtain a patent for your invention.

Unique products, processes, machines, or chemical compounds are inventions. A process to flavour food in its own packaging and green detergent for cleaning medical instruments are examples of patented inventions. If your invention is useful, new and inventive, you may want to apply for patent protection.

Improvements to existing processes, products, machines, or compositions can also be protected through patents. To be patented, the improvements must be useful, new and inventive.

Patent rights allow you, the owner, up to 20 years to prevent others from making, using or selling your invention.

Software

Your software is protected by copyright. In some cases, software can be indirectly protected through a patent.

If the software you have created is original code, it is considered a literary work and copyright applies. Copyright gives the owner the right to prevent anyone else from copying the code for the life of the author, plus 50 more years in most circumstances.

In some cases, software changes a machine, system, process or method so that it is new, useful and inventive. In this case, you can seek patent protection for the invention, but the invention is in fact the machine, system, process or method that executes the software rather than the software itself. Patent rights allow you, the owner, up to 20 years of exclusive rights, meaning you can prevent others from making, using or selling your invention.

Secret formulas

Secret formulas are considered trade secrets.

Secret formulas can be valuable business assets. The recipe for Coca-Cola, the Colonel's secret recipe for KFC, or the ingredients in WD-40 are all valuable trade secrets.

There is no means to register your trade secrets, but in order to maintain their business value, trade secrets must remain secret. In some cases, you can obtain a patent for a formula of ingredients. This provides the advantage of offering you registered protection for the life of the patent.

Customer lists and data

Customer lists and data can be considered trade secrets.

Customer lists and customer data can be valuable business assets guarded as trade secrets. There is no means to register your trade secrets, but to maintain their business value, trade secrets must remain secret.

Website content

Your original website content is protected through copyright.

Your product and service info, videos, podcasts and articles are all valuable business assets. This content can be protected through copyright. Owning copyright means you can prevent others from copying your original material.

Product information

Your original product info is protected through copyright.

Written material about your products and services are valuable business assets. This content can be protected through copyright. Owning copyright means you can prevent others from copying your original material.

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