Business owners in Connecticut may wonder if they should pay much attention to intellectual property matters. The answer is a resounding yes, and the reason is because IP is one of the most important assets a business owns. Trademarks, copyrights and patents, the three main types of IP, have some similarities, but there are also important legal differences worth noting.

Sometimes referred to as a brand name or brand, a trademark is a type of intellectual property that protects unique goods, services and company-related features, such as slogans, names, taglines, words and symbols. A business that owns a trademark can stop competitors, or anyone else for that matter, from using something that’s trademarked or creating something that’s too similar. Business owners are encouraged to do a comprehensive search prior to seeking a trademark to make sure there’s not one already registered.

A copyright is meant to protect creators or authors of original works. It protects specific forms of expression but not the subject matter. For instance, a document discussing a new invention could be copyrighted, but the newly created invention would be protected by a patent. Copyrights can also be used for a business’ original creative works, such as brochures, website content and advertising. A patent is a type of protection issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that normally applies to inventions or designs. Patents last for a specific period of time, usually 20 years from the filing date.

A trademarks lawyer may help take the confusion out of intellectual property matters by clearly explaining the filing process so that important deadlines and requirements aren’t overlooked. An attorney may further assist a client by confirming that other trademarks, copyrights or patents don’t exist for the same creation. Legal assistance might also be beneficial if there are claims of infringement or unauthorized use of protected creations.