Introduction to Intellectual Property Rights

All businesses have tangible assets: buildings, machines, and accounts receivable.  Companies have intangible assets too: trademarks, patents, copyrights, reputation, and goodwill.  These intangibles sometimes defy valuation, but may be worth more than the building and machines used to make a company’s product. 

SEMA places a high premium on the protection of trademarks, patents, and copyrights, also known as intellectual property (IP).  We will describe these types of IP, the benefits of getting a mark or patent registered with the appropriate federal authorities, the application process, and the benefits of registration.  We will also discuss some tools for stopping imports of counterfeit or confusingly similar product.

The aftermarket industry thrives on creativity.  What is new can also be subject to quick adaptation in the presence of fierce competition.  This may be the product itself, but also could apply to unique packaging, slogans, logos and other materials used to promote the product.  If intellectual property rights (IPR) exist, the owner must take steps to claim and then enforce those rights. 

Sometimes a company mistakes a “fair-use” adaptation as infringement.  More frequently, the company inadvertently has allowed a knock-off by failure to register IP with the proper authorities.  Sometimes it falls into a gray area, and it is up to a court or other party of jurisdiction to distinguish between fair-use or infringement.
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