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Types of Intellectual Property (IP) Cheat Sheet (DRAFT) by [deleted]

Types of intellectual property

This is a draft cheat sheet. It is a work in progress and is not finished yet.


All companies begin with an idea. The details of protecting intell­ectual property, however, can be daunting, especially if your idea is in the field of medical technology

Medical devices and methods of treatment that employ them are protec­table as intell­ectual property. The most advant­ageous type of intell­ectual property will depend on the exact nature of the techno­logy, such as whether it is revers­e-e­ngi­nee­rable by compet­itors, as in some compos­itions or methods of manufa­cture. Perhaps protection of the medical technology is needed only for the form of expression of the idea, as in a medical instru­ction manual or kit. In any case, it is imperative before any action is taken by the individual or a group that at least initial steps are taken to protect their work.

1. Trademarks and Service marks

Trademarks are intended to be indicative of the source of a product or service, and generally take the form of brands or logos.

Trademarks and service marks can be registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (Patent Office) and are usually indicated by the symbol “TM” or “SM” in supers­cript, or, if the mark is regist­ered, “®”. A service mark is a trademark used in the United States to identify a service rather than a product.

2. Copyrights

Copyright is protection for works of authorship and visual arts, and can be protected with the United States Copyright Office. Generally, copyright protects an expression of an idea in a tangible form, rather than the idea itself. As employed in most medical techno­log­y-based startups, copyright protection will apply to public­ations and other written materials, such as internal manuals, product litera­ture, and company announ­cem­ents. It is important to note, however, that computer software, such as the progra­mming of robotic compon­ents, is also subject to copyright protec­tion, and such protection is often used as an altern­ative or in addition to patent protec­tion.

Types of IP

3. Trade secrets

Trade secrets can include almost any type of inform­ation that is generated within a company that is not generally known to, and not readily ascert­ainable through proper means, by the public. Trade secrets can include technology that is generated by the company, employee know-how and customer lists, and can be maintained indefi­nitely, usually through the use of employment agreements and confid­ent­iality agreements with third parties. Technology that is kept confid­ential, but can be revers­e-e­ngi­neered if disclosed, should be protected by patents before any public disclo­sure, such as during fundra­ising efforts or by the commercial launch of a product.

4. Patents

Patents are by far the most common means for protecting innovative medical techno­logy. Most relevant to medical technology are “utility patents,” which protect the way an article is used; less relevant are patents for a design or a plant.

Generally limited to a statutory term of 20 years from the filing date at the Patent Office, issued patents provide a right to exclude compet­itors from making, using, selling, offering to sell or import­ation of any invention that is a process, machine, manufa­cture, compos­ition of matter or improv­ement thereof.