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  • Jessica Eaves Mathews

Besides Trademark, Copyright and a Design Patent, How Else Can I Protect My Ideas and Original Desig


Question: Besides Trademark, Copyright and a Design Patent, how else can I protect my ideas and original designs?

There are a few other areas of the law that might provide you with some protection if it someone tries to steal, borrow or knock off your ideas or designs and sell them in the US.

First, you might have a claim for “unfair competition” (this could arise if a local or foreign company copies your design and that copy is “passed off” as the their product).

Second, you might have a claim for “misappropriation” (which will protect against the appropriation and exploitation of another’s labor, investment, and skill).

And third, you might have a claim for “conversion” (which protects against the wrongful possession of a tangible embodiment of a work, like when Marc Jacobs Spring 2012 Collection was stolen on its way to Paris a few weeks ago).

One point: If there are already products similar to yours being sold here in the US, then you likely won’t have much of a claim if another company introduces yet another similar product. Your best position is if your work is totally unique in nature. If it is, get a copyright (or design patent) and defend the heck out of it by going after anyone who infringes on your rights.

Final tip: always make sure anyone who works for you (employee or contractor) signs a Non-Disclosure Agreement. Make sure that agreement also contains Non-Compete and Non-Solicitation language. This will prevent someone who works for you from gathering all your good ideas and then starting their own (or working for) a competing company. You also don’t want them to be able to hire away your best employees. I consider a strong NDA a critical part of the process of protecting your ideas and designs, so don’t skip this step!

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