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By J.D. Houvener
Patent Attorney and Founder

Hey everyone, welcome to the Bold Inventor Show! I’m JD Houvener, your host. I’m a patent attorney, but just to make sure I include the disclaimer: I’m not your attorney, and we’re not your law firm at this point.

Let’s talk patents right out of the gate. What is a patent? A patent is a federally-backed right that an inventor gets when they disclose their invention and its nuances to the world. The invention must be the first of its kind, non-obvious, and have utility. If you can meet these criteria, you write down the claims—the scope and bounds of your invention—and get it through the patent office. The examiner will do their own search, and if you can prove to them that your invention is novel and non-obvious, you’ll get a patent. For a utility patent, it lasts 20 years from the filing date, during which the U.S. government guarantees that you are the only one who can make, use, or sell your invention.

There’s also something called a design patent, which covers just the ornamentation or appearance of an item—like the shape of a water bottle, not its functionality. Design patents are good for 15 years from the date they are issued. So, there are two major types of patents.

Now, let’s move on to trademarks. Trademarks are like the Bold Patents logo you see behind me—logos, word marks, and symbols that indicate the origin of goods or services. If you can provide evidence that you’ve been using a particular word, logo, or mark in commerce, and you’re the first to do so in your product or service class, you can get federal registration. This means you’re the only one who can use that mark nationwide. This is especially important in today’s global market where online sales are common.

Next, we have copyright law, which protects creative works like books, paintings, songs, and performances. Unlike patents and trademarks, copyright protection is automatic once the work is fixed in a tangible form. You don’t need to register to have the right, but registering your work at the Library of Congress allows you to enforce your copyright in federal court. So, if you want to sue someone for infringement, having a registered copyright is beneficial.

Lastly, let’s talk about trade secrets. Trade secrets are often overlooked because they don’t involve a formal registration process. Whether you have a trade secret depends on whether the information is economically valuable, kept secret, and not readily known by the public. If a competitor could gain a competitive edge from your information, you likely have a trade secret. Actively keeping it secret, such as through encryption or restricted access, is crucial. The information also must not be easily ascertainable by others.

That wraps up our IP 101 series for today. We covered patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets. Thanks for tuning in to the Bold Inventor Show!

About the Author
J.D. Houvener is a Registered USPTO Patent Attorney who has a strong interest in helping entrepreneurs and businesses thrive. J.D. leverages his technical background in engineering and experience in the aerospace industry to provide businesses with a unique perspective on their patent needs. He works with clients who are serious about investing in their intellectual assets and provides counsel on how to capitalize their patents in the market. If you have any questions regarding this article or patents in general, consider contacting J.D. at https://boldip.com/contact/