Intellectual property, commonly abbreviated as IP, is a type of property that’s very different from what most people think about when they think about the stuff they own. Unlike tangible property or money, intellectual property exists solely as a function of laws that recognize its existence. If you are developing an estate plan you probably want to know at least a little bit about what intellectual property in Florida is, how you obtain it, and why you might need to plan for it.
A patent is a type of intellectual property that applies to inventions. When someone invents a new product, procedure, or process, they can submit a patent application to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, or USPTO. After a review process, the USPTO decides to grant or deny the patent application. If it grants the application, the inventor receives a patent in that invention.
A patent allows the inventor the exclusive right to use, manufacture, license, or sell the patented invention. Patents allow you to do this for 20 years, after which time the patented invention becomes available to the public to use.
As with patents, trademarks are original creations people invent. However, trademarks are symbols, names, phrases, slogans, or other identifying details that distinguish a company or individual from others. If, for example, you own your own business, you can often trademark your business name. Like patents, you have to file your trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office
If the office determines that there isn’t a pre-existing trademark that is too similar to yours, you receive the exclusive right to use that trademark for the next 10 years. If you continue to use the trademark, you can resubmit an application every 10 years thereafter.
Copyright is a type of intellectual property that doesn’t require you to file an application with the government agency. Any time you create an original work of authorship that is a affixed or attached to a medium, you automatically gain copyright in that work. These rights apply only to original works, not copied material, and only to works that are somehow in a physical form. For example, you can’t copyright the idea for a poem, but once you write the poem down, you gain copyrights in it.
Intellectual Property in Florida and your Estate Plan
In Florida, if you have a patent or trademark, you probably know about it. If you have an original work of authorship, you probably know about it as well, even though you might not realize you own copyrights in it.
However, determining what you need to do to plan for these types of intellectual property in your estate plan differs significantly depending on the value of the property and type property it is. If you have any intellectual property concerns, you’ll need to bring them up to your estate planning attorney as you go about the planning process.