January is our month to focus on new technology. So, to help you protect your new technologies, we will cover the basics of intellectual-property (IP) protection.

According to FORTUNE, 88% of the value of larger companies is based on their brands. An attorney quoted in that article says that unfortunately many firms are “asleep at the switch” and don’t protect their assets.

One of the things the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act  changed is that you no longer have to prove you invented something to own it. Under America Invents, the first to file for a patent usually wins. Which is yet another reason why being asleep at the switch will hurt you or your company.

Throughout all of 2009 and a portion of 2010, patent attorney and metallurgist Thomas Joseph updated our readers on the entire range of IP protection. These blogs can be found here: www.industrialheating.com/IPblogs. Although this material is five years old, these blogs may be a great place to learn, especially if you have a question on a particular topic, because topics are broken down so that you can easily pick and choose.

By way of a brief review, there are four major types of IP: patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets. For our industry, patent protection is the most important form of IP. In his blog, Joseph says, “Patents protect inventions, such as products, processes or compositions of matter OR improvements thereof. Patents provide the owner with the right to exclude others from making, using, selling, offering to sell or importing the patented invention.”

Patent protection lasts for 20 years from the date on which the patent application was filed. Patents are issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and are enforced in the federal courts.

The three different types of patents are utility, design and plant patents. Utility patents are the most common. As the name indicates, utility patents protect “useful” inventions and can protect products, processes, compositions of matter and improvements thereof.

Design patents (good for 14 years) protect new, original and ornamental features of a product. Often thought of as being less important than utility patents, these are sometimes overlooked. In certain cases, however, design patents can be very effective forms of intellectual property.

Because an invention may have both utilitarian and aesthetically desirable features, an inventor may seek both a design and a utility patent. There may also be overlap between design-patent protection and copyright protection.

Copyrights protect original works of authorship (e.g., computer software). A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol or design that distinguishes goods of one business from the competition. Non-disclosure agreements are used by businesses to maintain trade secrets, which give a company a competitive advantage.

A New Look

You may have noticed that Industrial Heating looks different this month. 2015 brings in a new design. We hope you like the new, lighter look. You will also notice our new stacked logo, which departs from our tried-and-true “stretched” convention. Columns and articles also take on a new look, which you will see on virtually every page. Sit a spell and check it out.

Hope you have a great new year.