Very few of us manage to develop more than one great idea in the field of engineering design, but when we do have that groundbreaking thought, we need to ensure that it is properly protected so we can reap the full benefits from it.
Guide to Intellectual Property
We must also turn to the legal field to make sure that our design or idea can be protected from copy infringement, and that we are able to take it forward without fear of having to share the profits. But what is intellectual property, and how can we benefit from it?
Intellectual property (IP) is any type of original specification, invention, or design that you have thought up and, essentially, own. IP can be recognized world-wide — giving you powers against anyone who infringes your design or idea, and the full power of the law can be used to stop unauthorized manufacture.
IP can be applied to the following items:
A patent can be taken out on the physical elements that make a device or process work, or on an individual or unique element that makes it differ from similar products. A patent can be awarded for an aspect that is not currently in the public domain. To be considered patentable, your idea has to be novel and useful. It might be a new process or machine, a product, a “composition of matter” such as a new element or compound material, or an improvement to any of the above. You cannot patent something that is fundamentally useless, such as a new two-dimensional shape with some spiky bits and semi-circular parts — while it might look pretty, it may be of no use.
Coca-Cola’s universally-known writing, the Nike swoosh, and Apple’s bitten fruit are all well-known trademarks which are heavily protected. A trademark is a sign that can become as well known as the Windows logo, or the Ford name. By registering your trademark, you are protecting both your company name and your products. Anyone trying to emulate either will find themselves in deep legal water.
A design is the physical appearance of an entity and by controlling it, you protect your ideas from being copied. The monopoly game itself is not legally protected, but the design of the board, the cards, and the play pieces are all very well controlled through registered designs. Anyone can market their own version of monopoly, but they would have to come up with a completely new design, including the board layout.
Copyright applies to all types of literary, drama, musical, and performed works, and is the legal device that allows authors and owners of books, songs, films, and television shows to stop others from copying their ideas and products. Copyright is a very strong law and exists as soon as the work is produced.
IP is handled by national and international policymakers, and is a very complex subject. Anyone considering the use of IP should contact a patent attorney to make sure that they are being completely protected.
The most important aspect of a new product, design, or trademark is secrecy. Once an idea or notion has been discussed outside of the tight legal confines of a signed and agreed non-disclosure agreement, it is effectively deemed to be in the public domain, which can seriously affects a designer’s ability to apply for a patent.
If you develop an idea that you think is worthy of controlling under IP laws, speak to a patent or apply for a patent to protect it yourself. Most countries have a national government office for IP and are usually more than happy to discuss your needs. You never know – you may come up with the next big idea that absolutely everyone must have, and set yourself up to become a billionaire.
Pivot International is a product design, development, and manufacturing firm with strengths in software development, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and industrial design. If you are interested in engineering a new product or updating an existing product, contact us at 1-877-206-5001 or request your free consultation today.