Business ownership is a multi-faceted venture. One of the more neglected aspects of running a business that first-time entrepreneurs are all of the various legal issues that are necessary to protect your interests.
While the reasons for overlooking the legal aspect of business ownership are unclear, what is clear is the fact that business law is extremely necessary to invest in.
Being able to create something is an achievement on its own. However, being able to nurture and protect it should be treated as a necessity — not just to yourself, but also to the helping hands that helped you build your business.
That’s exactly why the law is important to business owners, especially when it comes to trademarks, copyrights, and patents.
But before we delve into these legal tools and why they are important to your business, we need to establish a few important points first.
Rights of Ownership
The ownership of a property, whether physical or intellectual, bestows upon the owner the rights of ownership. The exact names and wordings can vary depending on where you are, but they are commonly referred to as the rights to: use, possess, abuse, and the right to the fruits (of the property).
These four rights represent the complete dominion of an owner over the property and the invocation of these rights is only limited in that these rights should not impair the rights of others and that they should not be contrary to law, good customs, public order, and morals.
A good example that’s related to ownership is when you’re allowed to make changes to the design of a product that bears your trademark and a product that you have had patented. You are the only entity that is allowed to make these changes to the design.
Now, the primary concern of business owners is that of the right to the fruits of the property. This is because the ownership of the property also translates to the ownership of the economic benefits of that particular property.
Modes of Acquisition
So, now, there are seven ways that a person come to own a property. These are:
1. Occupation – when a property is not owned by anyone, anyone can claim it.
2. Law – as recommended by legal judgement as is the case with property disputes
3. Donation – when the property is gifted to a new owner.
4. Tradition – when it is required as part of a culture.
5. Intellectual creation – which is the case with works of art, designs, and the like.
6. Prescription – as a result of a mediation between parties.
7. Succession – the transfer of ownership to the heir of the previous owner.
The importance of knowing how property is acquired is that it helps you determine whether or not you’ve indeed acquired property in a way that’s recognized by the state (and that which is recognized by the state is also recognized by the public).
But, that’s not where the process ends. As previously mentioned, it’s one thing to acquire property and another to keep it. This is especially true for intellectual creations in an age where piracy and counterfeiting are so prevalent.
It’s not uncommon for unscrupulous people to take credit for the works of others. It’s even worse when they replicate products (and these are almost always substandard) and they endanger the reputation of the business they are replicating the product from.
Differentiate Trademarks, Copyrights, and Patents
Trademarks, copyrights, and patents are all tools that protect intellectual property by cementing the rights of ownership to the creator exclusively. However, “intellectual property” is a broad term.
It’s defined as creations of the mind, such as inventions or literary and artistic works, as well as symbols, names, and images used in commerce.
That general definition still seems to elude to the same meaning. The way that a particular idea materializes and its end result is what is protected by these legal tools. Each of these tools protects a specific type of product and it is in the product types where these tools differ.
Trademarks are meant to protect anything that is used to identify a business or brand. Trademarks provide legal evidence and public notice of ownership, thereby granting the holder the power to sue anyone who makes commits an infringement.
This is to prevent anyone from misrepresenting a brand and damaging its reputation. While trademarks last for an indefinite period, they need to be renewed every decade. It’s also for this reason that you need to establish good business relations with trusted trademark lawyers.
Copyrights are used to protect creative works (works of art), whether they are in the form of songs, books, films, and even architectural blueprints. They protect specific works of art that are only attributable to a single author or multiple authors.
For example: there can only be one Guggenheim, one Mona Lisa, and so on. Because copyrights protect unique works of art, they last for the lifetime of the creator and 70 years past the author’s death.
Patents work in the same way as copyrights and trademarks do, except that they are specifically used to protect machines, processes, or chemical compositions, or the design for a product, or even a feature of a product.
The legal effect that patents carry is that the patent holder is granted exclusive rights that allow him to prevent others from making, using, importing, or selling the invention for up to 20 years.
Now, acquiring a property grants you the rights of ownership to a property. Regardless of the mode of acquisition you used to get the property, it’s not going to mean much unless your ownership is recognized by the state.
In the business sector, trademarks, copyrights, and patents are the sole authority in gaining recognition for a particular property. Use them to secure your ownership and the rights that go along with it, especially Jus fruendi.