Man looking over papers


Steven E. Springer Jan. 25, 2016

If you have ever created something—an invention, a song, or even a business design or symbol—you have what is known as Intellectual Property (IP). In California, there are always new ideas created and shared in the workplace, with friends, and on social media. These creations of your mind are of growing importance in the trade industry. After all, it is the unique idea that people are seeking to purchase, not the material it is made with (metal, plastic, etc.). On a daily basis, others are claiming someone else’s brilliant idea for their own. So how does one go about protecting him or herself?

Copyrights, patents, and trademarks may be your best legal option. You will need to know which each one pertains to in order to choose the best option for guarding your property.


This covers literary and artistic works—anything that can be written or read. This can include:

  • Literary works;

  • Musical works;

  • Dramatic works;

  • Pantomimes and choreographic works;

  • Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works;

  • Motion pictures and other audiovisual works; and

  • Sound recordings.

These must be able to be fixed to something tangible, such as a video recording or a sound recording and submitted. This is one of the number one reasons why, in a performance, most artists require no cameras or video equipment.


A patent protects inventions. For a limited time, a patent makes it illegal for anyone else in the United States from making, using, selling, or offering for sale an invention that you created. The items pertaining to a patent include the following:

  • Machine: A device with several parts that work together to make the apparatus operate;

  • Manufacture: Something that has been fabricated from your own hands;

  • Process: A chemical, mechanical or physical process that alters the state of the initial item or character; and

  • Composition of Matter: Chemical compounds or mixtures that are completely different from others.


A trademark guards your word, phrase, symbol, or design (or any combination of them) that distinguishes one company or individual from others. There is also a “service mark” that governs the use of the same type of service, rather than the product itself. These identify the goods of one company or individual from the goods of others. These do NOT safeguard your actual item, simply the mark itself. It is a useful tool because you can build up your own business without another inferior business using your name and discrediting the reputation you are building. It may be helpful to note that you are able to place the “TM” or “SM” after your mark to make the public aware of your intent, but you do not necessarily have it registered. When you’ve added the "®," it means that you are registered and can actually commence legal proceedings for trademark infringement.


To begin, contact an intellectual property litigation attorney and register your idea. It is important to get all of the details, no matter how seemingly small, registered to protect yourself. Also, until you have completely secured your idea, do not discuss the idea, especially on social media. Do not start promoting to friends or family, because you never know who could be listening and who to trust.

Additionally, you do not want to take the chance of your idea ending up secured before you get to it. Record your own idea and all of the parts of it, that way if anyone challenges you, you have documentation that you have been working on it yourself. Once you have all of this done, make sure you apply for your copyright, trademark, or patent and be ready to commit. You will need to have some sort of funds available, be it from yourself or an investor, because investments can be costly.

This can be an intimidating process—making sure that everything is done correctly and legally. It may be helpful to have an experienced Morgan Hill intellectual property litigation attorney on your side to make sure that everything is done correctly the first time. If you are in the San Jose, CA area and would like to schedule a consult, please contact us at 408-779-4700 for a free 20 minute consultation. We want your business to succeed as much as you do, and we have all of the legal knowledge and experience to back you up and get you the protection you deserve.