Intellectual property is generally a company’s intangible creations of the mind. It consists of anything from processes, products, trade secrets, customer lists, inventions, names, or creative writings. Intellectual property for many companies may be as much if not more valuable than its physical assets. Because of the very nature of these intangible assets, protection of intellectual property is essential.
There are four general types of intellectual property that state and federal governments protect by law (1) Patents, (2) Trademarks (3) Copyrights and (4) Trade Secrets. Registering an invention as a patent with the government will give companies a legal right to exclude others from marketing or manufacturing the invention. This process is very valuable, yet can take years and significant resources to finalize. It is important to understand that once an idea or invention is patented, it is disclosed to the public. Trademarks on the other hand are names, symbols, phrases or sounds that are used to associate companies with services and goods. For Genera Energy Inc. the very name itself “Genera Energy” is a registered trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office affording protection from use by others. Branding for a company will create a valuable asset. Copyrights are similar to Patents and Trademarks in that they can be registered to afford the author more protection. On the other hand, copyright laws protect the tangible written or artistic expression but not the idea itself. Patents, trademarks and copyrights can be protected prior to registration by using symbols and markings that warn others of its ownership. Trade secrets are not registered per se but are protected by state laws if the secret is stolen or misused. Trade secrets may include formulas, devices, compilation of data, know-how and proprietary information that can give a company an advantage over its competitors.
Trade secrets almost always will include proprietary and confidential information. While the law will provide protection for intellectual property, it is important establish protection practices for intellectual property within the company for information that may not be prime for registration or does not fall within one of the classes provided by the law for protection. Such assets may be simply ideas. A company must prove that a “trade secret