An innovative idea: It’s what took the Winklevoss twins through years of lawsuits and even a movie. It’s what’s pulling the founders of photo-messaging app Snapchat into their own legal battle for intellectual property rights.
For student entrepreneurs looking to launch a company, the fear of having a multi-million dollar idea swiped out from under them is enough to make many rethink ever starting a business in the first place.
As more lawsuits emerge over social-media business partnerships gone wrong and up-and-coming industry disruptors such as 3-D printing begin to infiltrate the market, the need to understand intellectual property rights is more important than ever.
Defined as a work or invention that is the result of creativity, intellectual property (IP) includes inventions, literary and artistic works, symbols, names, images and designs used in commerce, according to the World Intellectual Property Organization.
The vague nature of intellectual property law has entrepreneurs, online activists and major media companies alike calling for reform of outdated laws. The two main copyright laws currently used in the United States are the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (passed in 1998) and the Copyright Act of 1976.
On Wednesday, the Register of Copyrights Maria Pallante testified before a House Judiciary subcommittee to help fuel what she called the “next great copyright act.”
In order to update the laws for an evolving digital age, Pallante urged Congress to focus on issues including newer licensing models, exclusive rights for reproduction and distribution, digital-first sales and making room for exceptions and limitations.
Pallante argued for a more flexible and clear copyright act that would help regulate the distribution of content from “fair use in education to statutory licenses for new businesses, to the parameters of liability and enforcement online and in the home.”
Until Congress decides on how to better secure copyrights, these are three campus resources for student entrepreneurs to seek out for IP mentoring.
Centers for entrepreneurship
Universities from Oregon to Florida have centers for entrepreneurship, hubs where professors and mentors are ready to help budding entrepreneurs get access to the resources needed to start a business. Often found within the college of business, these centers have answers to questions involving business plans, funding and how to patent or trademark business ideas.
College of law
If your university has an affiliated law school, check to see if it offers an Intellectual Property Law Society or resource center. Groups like the University of Iowa’s Intellectual Property Law Society or the University of Maryland’s Intellectual Property Legal Resource Center provide students and local entrepreneurs with free legal services and counseling on securing copyrights.
Local chambers of commerce
Chambers of commerce are often tied closely to nearby universities and colleges of business, so finding a mentor to help secure your intellectual property should be fairly easy. The mission of these chambers is to make it easier to do business in the community, so they can help with networking as well as registering your business for an occupational license so you can begin operating.
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