World Intellectual Property Day: Defend Your Ideas
World Intellectual Property Day is coming up on April 26, 2021. Do you ever worry that you might fall victim to someone stealing your business name, invention, literary, or artistic work — even your slogan? And how do you protect them as your own? Well, read on to find out.
Yes, it’s true that even if you think of the most unique idea — one that has never been doodled by another living organism, and threatens to tear the fabric of the universe with its sheer originality, it may take more than simply having the idea in your possession to protect it in a legal sense.
How do you protect yourself from the baddies of the universe who want to steal your universe-fabric-tearing tool or idea to start their own universe-fabric-tearing factory to tear multiple universe fabrics per hour — far more successfully than even the famed Large Hadron Collider could manage.
All small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) out there need to ensure their unique ideas are protected. And so we urge you to join the party on World Intellectual Property Day 2021 and get to know your rights through their informative resources and services.
World Intellectual Property Day 2021
World Intellectual Property Day is run by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), which seeks to raise awareness about what intellectual property means for government, businesses, and society generally. Over 193 member states are members of WIPO, and this universality enables them to simplify the process of securing intellectual property, in a variety of sectors, worldwide.
The day itself is designed to ‘highlight the key role IP rights play in helping SMEs build stronger, more competitive businesses.’
Like most things in 2021, World Intellectual Property Day is virtual, encouraging companies to get involved by organizing events to raise awareness about intellectual property with competitions, seminars and by celebrating the innovators who have recently used Intellectual Property to protect their ideas.
The WIPO website is also a powerhouse of information you should check out. If you have any questions about intellectual property or copyright, you can almost guarantee the answer is on there.
Intellectual Property made simple
As hinted at above, Intellectual Property is being able to claim an idea as your own in a legal sense. Different types of Intellectual Property require different systems of protection.
Perhaps the most universal and common form of IP protection, that almost all of us have been granted (perhaps without our explicit knowledge), is copyright. Copyright is your right to call literary or artistic works your own. In most countries, copyright is automatically granted without any need for registration. You may have heard the phrase ‘life of the author, plus fifty’, which is paraphrasing a section of the Berne Convention regarding how long natural copyright covers a work, although this does vary from region to region.
However, it can become problematic if someone disputes your ownership. After all, how would you prove you owned the work in question? File backups showing earlier versions, maybe? The idea of proving something in a legal sense becomes slightly more tricky.
Well, the good news is, if you have these concerns, most countries offer a way of legally identifying work as your own, and WIPO has a new digital system, WIPO PROOF, that enables you to generate a digital ‘fingerprint’ for your work. These systems mean your most important works can be registered in a provable way.
Everything from Coca-Cola, to our very own Namecheap, is a trademark. Trademarks are granted to allow businesses to be easily distinguished from their competitors, and thus, protect businesses from copycats. I can’t call my business Cola-Coka, and you can’t call yours Namecheaps. It makes perfect sense. It turns out I also have to be extremely careful if I want to make a Lepidoptera immortal in chocolate sponge. But when I want to register the trademark for the brand new bumble-bee-inspired souffle I’ve just thought of, how do I do it?
Trademark registration is a more formal process than copyrighting, because, by its nature, it requires something to be official in order to be recognized. This is done at a national/regional level with your nearest Trademark Office.
If you want to register at an international level, you can either go through country by country (which involves a lot of paperwork), or simply use WIPO’s own Madrid System, which simplifies the process into a single worldwide application. They really do save you a lot of legwork!
If you’ve watched Shark Tank (or Dragons’ Den depending on your region), you’ll be familiar with how important patents are to investors. But do you know what they do?
Patents grant an individual (or company) the right to own a new innovation. This could be a process of manufacture, a physical product/invention, or something that offers a technical solution to a specific problem. Nowadays, it’s also frequently used for new computer software.
To be granted a patent, you must disclose the technical specifications unique to your product in a publicly viewable application. There’s a whole list of stipulations that must be met in order for a patent to be granted, chief of which is ‘novelty – a new, non-obvious characteristic/system.
Patents are granted by territory unless a worldwide patent is obtained, and the systems vary a lot from place to place.
If you want a worldwide patent, then, as with trademarks (above), WIPO have a system, (their PCT procedure) that simplifies registering patents in multiple countries without having to file with each one separately.
Protecting web property
When something is hosted online, companies like Namecheap do all we can to protect you with our different hosting options, but when it comes to intellectual property, we want to help you to protect yourself.
As an owner of a website, it may be that you don’t really have something to patent, and a trademark doesn’t feel like a necessary thing for you yet. But there are still some things to bear in mind in order to protect yourself day-to-day.
Whatever your website does, you don’t want someone passing off your hard work as their own. Anything from your researched SEO-optimized text, to more tangible assets like images, cost money, or at least time.
As we mentioned above, copyright is granted automatically, but the US Government site puts it more succinctly than we could:
‘Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.’
That said, they also recommend registering key works in a similar manner to what’s suggested by WIPO, but they have their own similar system. But there are also free solutions to add an extra element of protection.
Think of them as the deterrent CCTV camera that isn’t switched on. Including a © notice on your site shows that you are aware of copyright, and are asserting your belief publicly that you own some, or all, of the content shown.
You are also advised to place contact details on your website with a message encouraging people to enquire if they wish to use your material. Not only is this a good way to potentially generate some revenue from your work, but it is also a good point of reference if someone fails to do this, despite your messaging.
You may have come across (really annoying) sites that don’t let you copy and paste text. You could implement this kind of plugin on your site if you are really keen for people not to quote your work. But it’s worth noting that copy and pasting from your site may not always be for negative reasons, and this system could be off-putting for those who want to share a quote etc without infringing your copyright.
Common types of copyright infringement
One of the most common types of copyright infringement is image theft. Image production (whether photography or illustration) is expensive, and can be complicated to produce.
This fact alone is why stock galleries (like Getty Images) exist — and if they can build an entire business model around this principle, you’d better believe people are going to steal images that aren’t protected.
There are a couple of hacks to give images an extra level of protection. Adding a watermark to your images makes them less appealing to use, and if they are used, you can immediately identify them as your own. Similarly, only offering a really small thumbnail preview that can’t be blown up is a big deterrent.
Another common type of infringement is using text that might be considered universal. For example, text that sells a specific product. If you own a store selling homemade candy, and a competitor starts using your carefully crafted sales text, it will aid their business (and damage yours) in a way that’s not dissimilar to the trademark infringements mentioned above.
While there’s no one-size-fits-all preventative against this, you can try googling exact terms to catch out any competitors using your copy verbatim.
General security protection
Of course, we could go into things like physically protecting your premises to prevent the theft of confidential ideas, but what you may not have considered is, online there are slightly more common ways data can be obtained. Imagine if you have unpublished assets stored on a server or backend of a website, and the website is hacked. What’s worse is, you may not even find out there has been a breach until it’s too late, depending on how it happens. If you host with Namecheap, we have several ingenious solutions that come as standard to help protect your account, including 2FA, and online privacy as standard.
Who needs enemies…
With friends like these. We’ve all heard horror stories of whole businesses, concepts or ideas being stolen by those on the inside. The film The Social Network alludes to it once or twice.
Probably more important still is your right to own work your employees create for you. Even this blog is an example. It isn’t owned by James Long Inc, despite its authorship and incredible embedded personality. Likewise, you want to be sure you own everything that someone creates for you while they’re in your employment.
Ensure any staff, or even freelance contractors, are bound by contracts that prevent them from stealing IP from you. Learn how to ensure your employment contracts can protect your company from IP issues.
Have we whetted your appetite?
If all of this information makes you curious to learn more, don’t forget to learn more about World Intellectual Property Day on April 26 and get your business involved.
Once you’ve had your inspiration, whatever it may be, you’ll want to get it out there. With Namecheap’s hosting, there are a variety of plans to meet your business needs. We also have low-cost PremiumDNS, SSL Certificates, and VPN to ensure connections to-and-from your website, laptop, and servers are protected.