Misconception: once your idea is protected by patent, trademark, copyright or trade secrets, your Intellectual Property (IP) is protected forever without any further action. Not true! One chance of forever is protection through trade secrets. The other forms of IP protection have time limits, maintenance fees, and/or renewals that you are responsible for tracking.

Great example of a trade secret is the recipe for Coke® which has been secret for over one hundred years. As long as it is kept secret with all the proper precautions, there are no formal filing, renewal or maintenance fees to be paid. 

Federal Trademarks are a good example of the need for renewals. When you receive the trademark in the mail from the USPTO, please turn it over to see the Requirements to Maintain your Federal Trademark (TM) registration. The filing dates are detailed along with warnings that the TM will be cancelled if you do not file on time. And most importantly, the USPTO will NOT send any reminders of the dates. 

On the surface Copyright registration does not appear to need any follow-up because it is the life of the author plus extra years. However, if you register your Blog and website content and then continue to refine your website and add to your blog, you will need to update your Copyright registration on a quarterly basis for new information and blogs. 

Patents are time limited, or in other words once they expire, the protection is over, whether that is fourteen, seventeen, or twenty years depending on the type of patent. In addition patents may require maintenance fees over the duration of the patent at specific times. 

IP Protection is often the best way to move forward or leverage your big idea but start with the knowledge of the limitations and responsibilities associated with the different forms of protection.

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