How to secure intellectual property?

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How to secure intellectual property?

About 3 years ago, myself and 3others founded a business. It was a start-up business and not much money had been invested. We were all equal partners; I worked on the business plan very hard. I created logos, mottos, even designed t – shirts. This year, 1 member left the city we operated in and decided to cut me out of any future deals. Since then, I have put in a copyright claim for the visual arts work that I did. Now this person continues promoting my work and branding the company. How can I patent/copyright the business plan that I helped create? I do not believe this person has done any.

Asked on July 18, 2011 under Business Law, Illinois

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

The issue is that if you did the work while employed by the business, for the business, then the intellectual property you created is owned by the business--trademarks, copyright, etc. created by an employee during the course of his or her employment belongs to the business. If the business still exists, then it is the proper owner of any intellectual property. Furthermore, certain things, like a business plan, may not be protected by intellectual property law; or rather, while it is possible to copyright the exact way your wrote a business plan, the basic concepts, plan, ideas, etc. are not protectable, since IP law (specifically copyright law; trademark law does not apply in this case) protects the particular expression of an idea, not the basic idea itself. To use an example from recent movies: JK Rowling can protect the name "Hogwarts," but  she can't protect the basic idea of a school for wizards, which has been used by many writers. Similarly, a business plan, in the sense of an idea for how to build or run a business, is not protectable by copyright law.


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