Imagine leaving the back door of your business office unlocked each night, where your most valuable assets would likely be stolen. That’s exactly what many entrepreneurs and companies are doing every day by failing to protect their most creative products and processes - intellectual property (IP).
IP refers to creations of the mind, including symbols, designs, names, and images used in business, as well as inventions, and literary and artistic works. These are all products of your hard work, dedication, blood, sweat, and tears, and the most valuable assets of your business. We all know what happens when we leave valuable assets unprotected….they are UP FOR GRABS and anyone can copy it, steal it, and make a profit from it without your permission.
There are three (3) main types of IP protection in The Bahamas: trademarks, copyrights, and patents, which can be used to protect your business.
Trademarks are an important part of any business’ intellectual property. But if you're like many small business owners, you may not be sure of the trademark basics.
Here are some facts to clear up several common misunderstandings about trademarks in The Bahamas:
Every business has trademarks (business name, logo, slogan, etc.) but until you register them, they are FREE GAME.
Registering your trademark in one country DOES NOT provide protection in all other countries. If you want your trademarks to be protected in a particular country, they must be registered in that country. But before you go registering your trademark in EVERY country you conduct business in (which can be), consider whether there is a real risk of your trademarks being copied or used without your permission.
Bahamian law does not currently allow trademarks to be registered in relation to services - only products. This means that if you are a service-based business, like advertising, beauty services, or content creation, you won’t be able to register your trademarks (brand/biz name, logo, etc.) in relation to the services you provide BUT here’s some good news….if you decide to put your brand/biz name or logo on a hat, t-shirt, or some other product for sale, you will be able to register your trademarks for those products. Got it?
Generally, you cannot register trademarks that are generic or commonly used. For example, if you sell candles, you cannot trademark the word “candle” - it’s too generic and likely to be used by other businesses in the same industry. The exception to the rule is the use of generic words which DO NOT literally describe the product. A perfect example is Apple, which has successfully trademarked its business name, logo, etc. The key difference is that Apple is not in the business of selling fruits; it sells cell phones and other tech products.
When most people hear the term copyright, they immediately think about the music and film industry, but copyright also applies to paintings, photographs, sculptures, graphic designs, the selfies you take, the daily tasks you write, the voice notes you record, and the list goes on. So pretty much, you’re a copyright owner (in some shape or form), and here’s what you should know:
Unlike trademarks, registration is not required for copyright protection. Your original work will automatically be protected, once it is fixed in writing or some other medium (e.g.hard drive). P.S.Registration is still available for creators who want to register their copyrights - more on the benefits of registration in another post.
Copyright will not protect any of your ideas or concepts only expressions of your ideas. So keep those million-dollar ideas to yourself until you’re ready to execute them or use an NDA.
Your creative work will be copyright protected even after you die (70 years after you pass away to be exact).
If you’re an artist, an author, a photographer, or some other creator of works (and you own the copyright in the work you’ve created *check the terms of your contract freelancers), then you have the right to make copies of your work, license the rights to your work and more importantly, receive royalties from the use of your work.
Simply put, a patent is a monopoly right to the use of an invention (i.e. a product or process); it provides the owner of the patent with the right to decide who can use the invention and how it should be used. In order to obtain a patent in The Bahamas, an inventor must satisfy three (3) criteria:
1. The invention must be novel - this means that it must not be similar to anything that is public knowledge, which includes anything that has been previously patented within or outside of The Bahamas or, anything that has been written about in a publication, or anything that is currently being sold.
2. It must involve an inventive step - this means that your product or process cannot be obvious to a person of expertise in the relevant industry of the invention.
3. It must have industrial applicability - this means the invention must be useful. What good is an invention that cannot be used and therefore serves no purpose?
Once a patent has been obtained, it will be valid for 16 years from the date of the patent.
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