At Mako Design + Invent, we talk a lot about designing, innovation and inventions. We also love to give and provide our clients with the best resources and information about the process that goes behind building their product and giving them the best resources and tips to help them start their own small business and entrepreneur journey. As a product development firm who deals with dozens of different projects and clients daily, an extremely important value that we hold here at Mako Design + Invent, is the value of intellectual property. Whether you are still thinking of your next big invention or are currently in the middle of your product design and business venture, understanding intellectual property is extremely important in order to ensure the protection, and rights to your product idea and business.
What is Intellectual Property Protection?
Simply speaking, Intellectual property is a form of protection that exists specifically for creations that come from the mind (hence the term ‘intellectual’). This can include protection for inventions, literary and artistic work, symbols, names, images, and designs used for commerce. If you are entrepreneurs or upcoming business owner, it is vital for you to understand the basics of intellectual property in order to ensure the best protection for your unique and hard-worked creations from possible competition. If you especially have a unique and genius idea that you believe would do extremely well in a market, its important to apply for and receive intellectual property protection to protect your idea from the possibility of it being sold and used for profit without your consent or benefit. There are several ways that one can earn intellectual property protection – and a recommended course of action is reaching out to an intellectual property attorney who can assess and best lead you to the right type of intellectual property protection you need.
What are the Different Kinds of Intellectual Property Protection?
Depending on the type of idea you have and what you plan to market and start a business out of, different kinds of intellectual property protections are made available to protect your idea, such as parents, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets.
The most popular type of intellectual property protection that our inventors invest in is patents. A patent is grants property right on an invention that allows the owner of the patent to hold exclude rights on their idea from others. This enables the holder to ensure that no one else can make, sell or use their invention idea. With a patent, you own your invention is your own, and can be rest assured that you can begin your product design’s business without the worry that anyone will enter your market with your invention idea, ensuring no direct competition. In the case that someone copies or steals your patented invention, design or design, you can take legal action against them. It is vital to get legal intellectual property protection for your product as soon as possible or else anyone can use similar designs, products and processes such as yours without risk. If you do decide to go public with your invention idea and don’t file for patent protection within 12 months of its public release, the opportunity to apply and receive a patent will be gone. Patents work in a sort of “first come, first serve” basis, so it’s important you patent your invention idea before another person does.
The process for filing for a patent is long and complicated, so the Strategy team at Mako always recommends getting a qualified and experienced patent attorney. It is also important that you specifically determine who will own the idea, whether it be the inventor themselves, or the company that the inventor chooses to give or start for their invention.
There are three types of patents available, utility, design, and plants. A utility patent is the most comment patent that most inventors go for as it covers any processes, machine, manufacturing, composition and any new improvements needed for your invention idea. A utility patent, lasting 20 years, is a patent used for inventions that are novel, unique and have some usefulness. This means that the invention is new and not yet known by anyone else. The invention must not be immediately obvious to someone else who has skills in its targeted industry. A design patent, lasting 14 years, covers any new and original design made for manufacturing. A plant patent, lasting 20 years, is a patent specifically made for new varieties of plants.
A trademark is a type of intellectual property protection that is most commonly used for words, phrases, symbols or designs that help create distinguish a brand or company from another. For anyone to file for a trademark, you must make sure that your word, phrase, symbol or design is distinct and especially different from anything already existing. An example of a trademark is the Nike “Swoosh” logo. If you already have a logo, brand name or slogan in mind, it is helpful to do a trademark search to help you reduce the amount of time and money that goes into finding a mark that isn’t already registered or trademarked. Make sure you have a clear idea or image of the mark, as well as the class of goods or services in which the mark will apply to. Until receiving a trademark, the inventor, business and company is free to use the TM symbol to indicate your ownership of the mark, however the TM symbol holds no actual legal weight, but shows others know that you intend to claim the mark legally. After receiving your trademark, you can legally add the ® symbol to your mark. A trademark can last for 10 years until it must be renewed.
Copyrights are the main type of intellectual property protections that are used for original works of artists-types. This includes literary works, music, dramatic works, choreography, sculptures, pictorials, graphics, sounds, architecture, and computer software’s. With copyrights, the owner has exclusive rights to not only owning their work, but being able to modify, distribute, perform, create, display and copy the work. In order to receive copyright laws, the work must be presented through a tangible medium, such as words on a paper, or musical notes on a sheet. A copyright can exist the moment the work gets created, so a registration is essentially voluntary.
Trade secrets are special kinds of intellectual property protection in which a formula, device, process or important business information is involved that a company must keep private in order to give them a business advantage over their competitors. Common examples of this include secret recipes/formulas, clientele lists, survey and data results and computer algorithms. For trade secrets, you don’t obtain protection by registering your trade secret because its protection only lasts through taking the necessary steps to control the disclosure of the information. For example, Mako Design uses Non-disclosure agreements to protect the information and confidentiality of the invention ideas we hear from our client’s free product consultations daily. Non-disclosure agreements are one of the many examples of how businesses instill security practices in order to maintain the protection of trade secrets. Other examples could be restricted access to confidential information and post-employment restrictive covenants. You can read more about how Mako Design + Invent practices Non-disclosure agreements below!
How we use Intellectual Property Protection at Mako Design
A frequently received question we receive at Mako Design + Invent, is if we provide forms of intellectual property protection for the ideas and products that we help build for our clients. Rather than offering intellectual protection property, we offer an NDA. Like mentioned in the section above on trade secrets, a NDA (Non-disclosure agreement) is a form of intellectual property protection we use at Mako Design + Invent in order to protect our clients ideas while we work with them in creating their design. We make sure to send an NDA to all our clients immediately, even before we set up a scheduled consultation to ensuring the privacy, confidentiality and protection of our clients’ product ideas before and during our free product strategy consultations. A common question we receive is if Mako Design + Invent offers or includes an in-house intellectual property protection attorney, and although we don’t offer an in-house attorney, we can refer you to the best, most reliable, and experienced patent attorneys and offices that we know.
If you have a great new invention and you’d like to learn more about this process, get in touch with MAKO here and visit our website to find out more. Feel free to give us a call at 1-888-MAKO and we can set you up on a call with our product analyst!
MAKO Design + Invent is the original firm providing world-class consumer product development services tailored to small businesses, startups, and inventors. Simply put, we are the leading one-stop-shop for developing your physical product from idea to store shelves, all in a high-quality, cost-effective, and timely manner. We operate as one powerhouse 30-person product design team spread across 4 offices to serve you (Austin, Miami, San Francisco, & Toronto). We have full-stack in-house industrial design, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, patent referral, prototyping, and manufacturing services. To assist our startup and inventor clients, in addition to above, we help with business strategy, product strategy, marketing, and sales/distribution for all consumer product categories. Also, our founder Kevin Mako hosts The Product Startup Podcast, the industry’s leading hardware podcast. Check it out for tips, interviews, and best practices for hardware startups, inventors, and product developers. Feel free to Contact Us anytime for help with your project.