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Intellectual property: How it works in the digital space

by Canto  |  November 24, 2020

3 min. read

Organizations are increasingly on the lookout for ways to further ensure designs, logos, images and artistic works are protected assets. Understanding what can and can’t be reused or borrowed is essential for all organizations who create, invent or design anything. Here’s a look at what intellectual property is and how it works.

What is intellectual property (IP)?

Intellectual property (IP) is a creative idea or creation that comes from the mind of a person or people. There are laws in place to protect organizations from having things like brand logos, drawings, images and copy being used externally by outside sources without permission. Legal processes can be established to protect intellectual property (creations) against the misuse of someone’s original works with copyright, trademarks and image watermarking.

A laptop with a locked keypad sitting on it.

Here we’ll look at several ways you can protect your intellectual ideas and creations.

Copyright law protects against duplication

Copyright law relates to anything created by a person that is viewed as original and formed from their intellect. It protects from unauthorized duplication and allows creators to give permission for reuse.

Digital media protected by copyright:

  • Art and photos
  • Music, audio and video recordings
  • Website content and copy

Digital watermarks are also copyright options for audio, video and image files. Watermarks are embedded code undetectable when a file is being used. In the background watermarks identify ownership and therefore copyright. Something to keep in mind is the lifecycle of copyright. This varies from country to country but usually lasts a lifetime plus some additional years. Copyright relates to tangible forms and does not include ideas, discoveries or concepts.

A neon sign of the word license

A lifetime trademark with periodical renewals

For businesses, trademarking a brand logo or slogan is typical and very much required. It protects intellectual designs but will require renewal after a number of years. Trademarks tie an idea or product to a business and relate to responsible expressions, slogans, signs and designs. In America, for example, trademarks are governed at both federal and state levels, something to be aware of.

Example of what can be trademarked:

  • Business names, labels and logos
  • Products and packages
  • Designs and symbols

Trademarks help to identify an organization. Although registration is often not mandatory it is well-advised, particularly when you consider how user-generated content is used to promote things like social media platforms and blogs.

A clipboard and trademark form

Digital patents protect technological ideas

A patent gives exclusive rights to people or an organization who has invented or created something that may be used by someone else. In the digital world, this relates to code or online processes like automated filling of buyer information processes as seen on websites like eBay.

Examples of digital and software patents:

  • Steps to take to form an algorithm
  • New encryptions
  • Code

Patents relate to inventions and creations and it is important to have them legally registered to ensure exclusive rights. Patents in the digital space can be more nuanced and harder to define than a physical thing. It can be hard to define an invention in the software space because definitions often relate to code and functionality.

As intellectual property extends its reach in the digital space, protecting assets and ideas from being used without consent or reward remains paramount.