Intellectual property is governed by the state laws of Colorado and the federal laws of the United States. In the brand- and information-focused business world, many of a company’s most valuable assets may fall into the intellectual property category. There are four types of intellectual property: patents, copyrights, trademarks and trade secrets.
Patents are governed by federal law and must be registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Most patents are for either utility or design. A utility patent might cover an invention, such as the engine of a car. Design patents cover ornamental or artistic features.
Original works of authorship are protected by copyright law. Books and other writings, paintings, sculptures, music and other artwork can be copyrighted, as can computer software among other things. Copyright protection is established as soon as the copyrightable material exists. The holder of the copyright may benefit, though, from registering the work with the U.S. Copyright Office. The holder can pursue a federal lawsuit for infringement, for example, only if the work has been registered.
Trademarks protect names, logos, symbols or words that the public identifies with a particular product, service, company, brand or other commercial entity. Common law trademark protection may be established by using the trademarkable material in commerce, but registering with the Colorado Secretary of State or the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office creates a presumption of ownership should a dispute arise.
The term trade secret applies to business information that is held in strict confidentiality. Business owners and entrepreneurs who have questions about the specifics of intellectual property law might choose to consult an attorney. A lawyer with experience in commercial law may be able to help by examining the facts of the situation and filing necessary registration documents. In an infringement case, an attorney may assist by sending cease-and-desist letters or by drafting a complaint to be filed in federal court.