Protecting intellectual property

Protecting intellectual property

16572959_sA gaming company named Wizards of the Coast recently filed a lawsuit against Cryptozoic Entertainment, LLC, and Hex Entertainment, LLC. According to Game Informer, Wizards of the Coast claims a game created by the other two companies is the same as a card game it created years ago, and that the two companies are infringing its intellectual property rights on that game.

The two companies have responded with a statement that the lawsuit does not have any merit, as their game is digital-based and falls under the right of fair competition.

What is intellectual property?

According to USA.gov, intellectual property is described as “any innovation, commercial or artistic, or any unique name, symbol, logo, or design used commercially.” Intellectual property can include written material, drawings or even verbal ideas and it is important for Illinois businesses, regardless of their size, to understand the importance that their intellectual property plays in their success. For example, the average person would be able to identify a curved check mark with products from Nike, the catchphrase, “Silly rabbit” immediately brings to mind Trix cereal, and a picture of a pink rabbit wearing sunglasses and beating a drum can only mean Energizer batteries.

Furthermore, when an employee creates a program for a computer company, the employee may be the designer but the company owns the idea that the employee came up with.

Protections

Businesses have a number of options available to them to protect their intellectual property and these options include the following:

  • Require employees to sign confidentiality and non-compete agreements – this legally prevents employees from using company information when they leave that job.
  • Limit the number of people who have knowledge of sensitive intellectual property – put a tracking system into place to identify which employees has access to what kind of information.
  • Understand what kinds of intellectual property might be of interest to other businesses and take steps to protect it legally.
  • Copyrights and other legal protections are time-limited so businesses should plan a yearly review of their intellectual property and protections to make sure that these protections are properly renewed.
  • Take the time to understand how legal protections such as copyrights, patents and trademarks work and are applied to intellectual property.
  • Start the patent process as soon as possible – patents can take years before approval but the company can place a patent-pending warning on products and property.

In addition, companies that are planning to do business in other countries should take steps to protect their intellectual property in those countries. This will require conducting research in those markets and contacting international agencies on how to establish legal protections. Intellectual property law can be complicated so businesses should enlist the help of an experienced attorney.

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