Protecting What's Yours: Entrepreneurs Should Guard Their Intellectual Property. (Management Advice)
Hughes, Alan, Black Enterprise
In the latest step toward its goal of becoming fully paperless by 2004, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office awarded partnership contracts on June 18 to allow electronic filing of patent applications. But even with the office going digital, there remain pitfalls that small businesses--which accounted for 18% of the patent filers in 2001--should be aware of.
One of the most common is unfamiliarity with the legalese, which can result in losing those rights. "The processes are unforgiving if you make a mistake," says Darcell Walker, a private practice patent attorney in Houston. "The only way to resolve them is to pay a fee or to start the process all over again."
Safeguard Your Intellectual Properties
There are three ways to safeguard intellectual properties: patents, trademarks, and copyrights:
* Trademarks--words or symbols consistently attached to goods or businesses to identify and distinguish them from others in the marketplace. They usually cost $325 per class (a particular industry) to file. This means that another business in the entrepreneur's field cannot operate under that name, but to safeguard it from use by businesses in other industries, additional classes would have to be added.
* Patents--rights granted by the government that give its holder the ability to exclude others from making, using, or selling the invention "claimed" in the patent deed, provided that certain fees are paid (fees vary). …