There are disadvantages of intellectual property rights that are not always apparent to individuals looking to establish ownership by securing copyright, trademark, or patent protection for something they have created.

While it is true that obtaining intellectual property rights can give a person the authority to exclusively use, or to license or sell, their intellectual property rights to others for profit, it should not be assumed that these rights do not come without potential drawbacks. A brief overview of these disadvantages can save a person time, money, and even heartbreak.

One of the most appealing aspects of obtaining copyright ownership rights from the Library of Congress is that the process is easy and inexpensive, and there is no formal review process. However, because there is no review process, practically every item submitted to the Library of Congress to be registered is approved. This means that material that may not actually fall within the parameters of being a copyrightable work receives copyright protection.

It is not until a person actually attempts to claim their sole rights of ownership against a perceived infringement that actual ownership can be established. There are many court cases of individuals claiming copyright infringement or plagiarism that took years to be settled and resulted in huge legal bills and scant rewards.

Missing the Mark with Trademarks

While owning a trademark or service mark can be a very important matter to an individual or company in terms of creating a unique brand in the minds of the public, there can be several disadvantages when it comes to filing and maintaining the mark. In order to acquire and maintain a trademark, it’s important that the application meets the requirements of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) or ownership will be denied or lost.

  • Attorney Fees: While it is not necessary to hire an attorney to prepare and file a trademark application with the USPTO, it is highly recommended to do so. An experienced attorney can make sure all the bases are covered.
  • Registration and Maintenance Fees: Throughout the process of registering a trademark, there is an application fee and other fees that may arise to satisfy filing requirements. If, after the review, the mark is deemed acceptable, the owner must pay maintenance fees to establish continued use.
  • Defending the Mark: Often overlooked in the rush to procure a trademark or service mark is whether ownership of the mark is worth the cost to protect its use by others in the first place. What might be a hot item today could cool off in a year or two, and the return on investment hardly justifies the initial outlay of funds.

Problems with Patents

While it is understandable to want to reap the rewards to coming up with the next great “must have” product or invention by obtaining patent protection, it is important to keep several things in mind:

  • It Takes Time: While the USPTO is making a conscious effort to reduce the time it takes receive patent application, it is still not unreasonable to expect the process to take up to three years. At the rate technology and innovations in so many areas of life today are evolving, is it worth the cost to wait all that time before taking the invention to market?
  • It Costs Money to File: The costs for filing a patent application can run into the thousands of dollars. Can the money be better spent developing the product or does it make sense to sell the idea to a company that has the means to lay out the initial funds?
  • It Costs Money to Maintain: To maintain ownership of the patent, it’s necessary to pay very expensive maintenance fees every four, eight, and twelve years. To avoid these fees, it might make sense that once the patent is awarded to license or sell the rights outright since ownership is now determined.
  • It Costs Money to Defend: Just because a patent assigns exclusive ownership right, it doesn’t mean another person or entity is not going to use the product or invention without obtaining permission. Court cases can drag on for years and eventual settlements may hardly justify the battle.

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