Often when business is booming, we don’t have the time to consider protecting our intellectual property. The year ahead may offer us the opportunity to do this. Is it too late to patent material or equipment that was introduced in 2008? What types of things can be patented? How do I go about it?

As 2009 begins, we begin a new blog, which will provide guidance and answers to the basic questions above and many more. Our goal is to add to this blog on a weekly basis, and, as always, you will have the opportunity to ask questions along the way.

The first several blog entries will introduce the concepts, which include patents, trademarks, service marks, trade names, copyrights and trade secrets. We will also give some examples and a broad review. Following this, we will dig deeper into these specific topics in an attempt to clear away the fog to help you determine whether IP protection is right for your product, process or machine. Since the blog is intended to follow a survey course for engineers and scientists, we will significantly focus on patents.

The portion of this introduction devoted to patents will briefly describe the three different types of patent protection. The blog entry devoted to trademarks will discuss the different types of trademarks. The blog entry devoted to copyrights will briefly describe the different types of works protected by copyrights, and it will also cover some basic types of material that can be protected through trade-secret protection.

Once we cover the basics, we will move on to different parts of the course, which will each be divided into several blog submissions. Here’s how the rest of it will break down.

The second part will discuss the basic statutory requirements for patent protection and the advantages (and disadvantages) of patent protection over trade-secret protection.

The third part of the course will discuss the preparation of invention disclosures, the structure of a patent application and claiming, and the fourth will cover the process for obtaining a patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which is referred to as patent prosecution process.

The fifth part will discuss patent litigation and licensing, and the sixth part will touch on international considerations in protecting IP in other countries. The seventh part of the course will cover trade-secret protection, and the final part will cover trademarks and copyrights.

2009 just might be your year to consider protecting your intellectual property. We hope these blog entries will provide the necessary information and motivation to do so.