Before acting against someone who steals your idea or intellectual property, you must first know what qualifies as ‘intellectual property’. In defining what intellectual property (IP) is, it can be anything that refers to something you thought of, such as an idea or concept. It can also be inventions, literary or artistic works, designs, symbols, names and images. Oftentimes, these IPs serve commercial use.
You can assure yourself that the law recognises and protects IP. Through patents, copyrights and trademarks, you can reserve the right to utilise your idea. Rainey Collins makes mention of specifying IP ownership in contracts to prevent abuse and theft. Basically, if you were to engage in business with a logo designer, for example, and fail to indicate exclusive use to the logo you, then the logo designer can very well use the logo for other purposes, as they had created it for you.
Acting Against Idea Theft
So, what can you do when someone steals your IP? First off, as mentioned, you have to register your ideas for the law to be able to recognise it as your property and protect it. You can go to a national IP office like the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ) and register your ideas there.
The variety of ways in protecting your IP involves the following:
- Trademarks – Use this to mark your products and services in the marketplace. This covers the use of words, colours, logos and shapes, to name a few.
- Patents – This provides you with the right to prevent others from producing, utilising or profiteering from an invention of yours for up to 20 years.
- Designs – In New Zealand, this covers the new or innovative features involving the visual design of your creation.
- Copyrights – This protects your original works, such as an artwork, literary pieces, software and apps, films and songs, among others.
- Plant Variety Rights – This gives you the sole ownership to producing and selling a new type of plant.
When it comes to IP, given its broad coverage as an abstract thing to own, there are more types of legal protection. There are geographical indications, trade secrets and domain and company name registrations. If, and when, you think you are on to something worthy enough of theft, ensure ownership by laying legal claim to it.