What Types Of Technology Are Protected By IP Law?
The answer to our question is actually quite simple. Almost all types of technology are protected by IP law — sort of. Did you write an algorithm? IP law protects your ownership of that code. Did you write a book? IP law protects your words from plagiarism. Did you come up with a new recipe? IP law protects your secrets, even if you must disclose the ingredients to the public. But what about when you release a new invention? Are you protected?
Let’s say you invented the lightbulb. That’s a big deal! But is your invention protected against theft? First, it depends on whether or not you registered your patent. Without taking that step, there’s no real proof someone else didn’t come up with the invention. Then again, let’s say you invented the Amazon Echo’s algorithms. Are they protected? Yes — and those protections are automatic (although a smart business will register them anyway for added protections).
Back to the lightbulb. Although the patent will protect the “idea” behind your invention from being stolen, it doesn’t protect it forever. After all, there are a ton of companies out there manufacturing different kinds of lightbulbs and none of them are named “Edison.” For one thing, monopolizing a specific market is illegal — and so legally, patents need to expire to increase the chance of competition in the future.
The expiration allows anyone else to make the same or similar product, so long as they didn’t outright steal its design. That’s because its designs are considered a trade secret — and those are protected under IP law as well. There are generic brands of cereal, for example, but none of them are exactly the same as the name brand originals.
Not sure whether your business or services are protected by IP law? You can always shoot a question to our friends: https://www.woodslaw.com/.
The bottom line? Almost every type of technology is protected by IP law — at least at first. Certain protections can expire, such as the initial idea. Copyrights expire too. For example, most books become part of the public domain after a certain period of time following an author’s death (usually 70 years). This is true of any copyrighted materials. Because of the length of time before such copyrights expire, though, it’s unlikely a 70-year-old algorithm would prove useful to anyone — or that your corpse would feel as if its rights were violated.
Even though all technology can be protected by IP law, we still recommend speaking to a lawyer about strengthening these protections. Copyright and trademark protections kick in automatically, but deterring theft is important. Someone will always try to mimic popular brands, and these reproductions are almost always considered theft in court. Lawyers can help properly register these protections for additional security.
One thing you should always remember: Always take ownership of your own ideas. Companies will try to buy them. People will try to steal them. But they are, and always will be, yours — as long as you don’t give in.