We come up with ideas every day. Of these ideas, likely only a few have the potential to change the world. Upon the realization that a million-dollar might have surfaced, and once bit by the entrepreneurial bug, a true innovator is often left with no choice but to turn his or her idea into a reality.
The bedrock behind this whole cycle– the conception of an idea, the foundation of a concept, and the process of moving towards a tangible result — is intellectual property (IP) law.
IP law makes it possible to protect innovations from infringement and replication through utilizing patents, copyrights, and trademarks.
The Crucial Role of IP Law
The path towards becoming an innovator is not for the faint of heart. There are countless obstacles along the way to turning an idea into a reality and only a small chance of success. Even so, hundreds of thousands people take this risk and embark on the entrepreneurial path every day.
According to the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, there were 629,647 patent applications filed per day in 2015.
Within this process, there are key IP considerations that inventors must keep in mind when moving towards an idea such as: securing patent rights, drafting agreements to protect rights, protecting and promoting and brand, and overall IP strategy.
IP law plays a crucial role in driving the US economy. In order for free market capitalism to work, there must be businesses, companies, and entities for money, goods, and services to flow to and from. The protection of ideas makes all of this possible.
Patent Attorney, J.D. Houvener from Bold Patents States:
“A patent gives the inventor the right to stop others from manufacturing, copying, selling or importing the patented goods without the permission of the patent holder who retains exclusive commercial rights. That’s a big deal for a business or individual looking to monetize their invention.”
Moreover, Americans have a Constitutional right to own intellectual property. Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution contains the Patent Clause.
This clause states that Congress shall have the power to “promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.”
Founded upon this article, Congress enacted the Patent Act of 1790, which created the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
The Importance of IP Enforcement
Given these key considerations, courts, government agencies, and law enforcement officials must continue to enforce intellectual property laws. Enforcement is especially important light of our digital era, which has made the act of copyrighting as well as the ability to sell knockoff products easier than ever.
One of the key reasons why it’s so crucial to enforce IP law is because of the risk of infringement.
Copyright, trademark, and patent infringements are big areas of concerns for inventors– and rightfully so. Even with the necessary IP safeguards, copycats can still come out with a knockoff and threaten to run the original inventor out of business.
This Story of TRX
After a “spark of inspiration” while on deployment as a Navy SEAL, Randy Hetrick created a piece of gym equipment that became the TRX.
When Randy created the TRX, he realized that, “There were some unique characteristics in those designs that I had created that I thought were really special and would fundamentally differentiate this product from what, if I was successful, I expected to be, you know, a herd of copycats.”
Smartly sensing this threat, he immediately filed patents and trademarks for his invention. Good thing he did. 6 or 7 years after launching, Randy learned about “20 different factories scattered around China that were all creating fake, counterfeit TRX suspension trainers.”
These copycats almost ran TRX out of business. TRX fought back using U.S. customs enforcement officials, local Chinese police officers, and eventually, a federal patent and trademark lawsuit. In this lengthy and expensive suit, the jury ultimately found for TRX, awarding a hefty sum of damages.
Unfortunately, what happened to TRX can happen to any company.
While having the necessary IP safeguards can minimize risk of being copied, infringement still happens often. It may be necessary for law officials to take additional measures to strengthen their approach to IP enforcement.
Leveraging Civilian Power in the Effort to Enforce
One way that law enforcement may be able to strengthen their approach to IP enforcement is by involving consumers and ordinary civilians. Armed with the knowledge of what to do in the event of coming across a potentially counterfeit object, a civilian could play an important role in enforcing IP.
Local law enforcement officers can do this by hosting free workshops and courses to disseminate information to consumers, with the goal of getting more ‘boots on the ground’ in the fight against copyright infringement.
Information about how to lend support to law enforcement officials by reporting potential counterfeit products can be found here. If you are an inventor seeking information about how to patent your idea, you can find a detailed 13-step how to patent your idea process here.
Carly Klein is a law student at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. She is a Content Strategist for HippoThinks, a thought leadership focused marketing group. A graduate from Boston University with a B.A. in Political Science & Philosophy she has previously served an Americorps term at the American Red Cross in Los Angeles on the Service to the Armed Forces & International Services Team.