A company’s intellectual property helps to set it apart from the competitors within its sector. Thus, ensuring that such property remains protected from unauthorized use and infringement should rank among a business’ top priorities.
Fortunately (as many likely already assume) legal protections exist that keep IP protected. According to the World Intellectual Property Organization, vital business assets afforded such protection include:
- Copyrighted materials
- Industrial designs
- Trade secrets
Those companies that discover competitors utilizing such assets may seek injunctive relief. Unfortunately, there are many similar business resources that executives often assume fall under the umbrella of IP, only to later discover that such assets do not. Understanding exactly what does not qualify as IP can therefore save a business unnecessary expenditures from pursuing cases that do not fall under IP law.
Exclusions from intellectual property protections
First and foremost, facts cannot qualify as IP. For example, a bottled water provider using the fact that water covers 71% of the world is covered by water in its marketing cannot claim that statement as its own. Similarly, generic words, titles and phrases do not qualify for IP protection.
In addition, a company cannot claim a mathematical formula as IP. While such a formula may contribute to calculations or compositions that qualify as trade secrets, the actual formulas themselves are not protected.
Expiration of IP protection
Another fact that many business owners and executives fighting to protect their IP are often not aware of is the sunsetting of IP protections. Patent protection, for example, expires 20 years from its effective date (after which the information then enters into the public domain). Along those same lines, copyright protections eventually expire (although certain corporate protections remain effective for as long as 120 years). The point is, however, that eventually almost all protected material eventually does become public.