Understanding how intellectual property is protected in Michigan

Protecting their creations through patents, trademarks and copyrights may be vital to people maintaining the integrity of their intellectual property.

Intellectual property - creations of the human mind - are essential to people's and business' operation and success. Unfortunately, the theft (infringement) and unauthorized use of such ideas, creations and inventions is a growing problem for individuals and businesses in Michigan and throughout the U.S., as well as for those operating abroad. Consequently, people may not fully reap the benefits of their innovations or creations. Taking steps to protect their intellectual property through trademarks and copyrights, however, may help people protect the integrity of their brands, creations and businesses.

Trademarks

People often identify products or services by the symbols, words, phrases, sounds or designs that indicate their source and distinguish them from their competitors. Individuals and business owners may protect these source identifiers so that others do not use similar trademarks to confuse consumers. Trademark protections do not, however, prevent others from making or selling the same goods, products or services. Trademarks may be registered at the state and federal level, each of which provides the trademark owner with a different set of rights and protection.

Copyrights

Whether or not they are published, original works of authorship are protected through copyrights. This includes motion pictures, sound recordings, and architectural, choreographic, dramatic, graphic, literary, audiovisual, musical, pictorial and sculptural works. Registering such original creations affords authors, artists and others significant benefits, but is not required for their intellectual property to be protected through a copyright.

Taking action

Taking the steps to obtain a trademark or copyright alone do not guarantee others will not attempt to steal or otherwise use people's intellectual property without authorization. It is up to each intellectual property owner to enforce their valuable exclusive rights and prevent third parties from benefitting on the owner's original creation while maintaining the integrity and goodwill that they have developed.

Intellectual property infringement may cost the individuals and business potential revenue, dilute or damage their brand, or result in numerous other adverse effects. In addition to reporting the violation for investigation and possible prosecution, intellectual property rights holders in Michigan and elsewhere may seek compensation for the resulting damages and prevent further infringement. Those who suspect someone has used their ideas or creations without their consent may benefit from discussing their options with a legal representative.