Over the past few weeks, we’ve been working with our lawyers to define our long-term strategy regarding intellectual property. It’s a fascinating topic, but a rather complex one, especially when you consider the inter-relationships between the common types of intellectual property rights, including copyrights, trademarks, licenses, patents, design patents, and trade secrets. Let me cover them one by one, while outlining some of the most critical inter-relationships among them. And keep in mind that I am not a lawyer (unlike my brother), and that we’re working with three different law firms to put all this together…
This is by far the easiest part. By default, everything we produce is automatically copyrighted. Adding the © symbol on every piece of content that we create certainly does not hurt, and we’re likely to register our work once or twice a year just to be safe. Beyond that, we will start licensing some parts of our work using Creative Common Licenses, but we need to become a bit more familiar with them first.
Now that we’ve acquired the stoic.com domain name, we’re in the process of shifting our brand from Sutoiku to STOIC. First, we’ve started the registration process for the STOIC trademark. Second, we’ve registered a few additional domain names (stoic.cc, stoic.io), and we might register a few more down the road. Third, we will eventually rename our company from Sutoiku, Inc. to STOIC, Inc. or STOIC Corp. We might also apply for a trademark in relation to the simplify™ campaign. Finally, we will try to rationalize our handles on various social networks such as Facebook (stoic.io) or Twitter (@wearestoic), but things there are a lot less straightforward unfortunately.
For a software company, patents are always a rather tricky subject, and we’re not exempt from it. On that front, we’re likely to apply for a few patents covering very specific aspects of our work, but none that would even remotely relate to our open source projects. What’s a bit challenging for us is that many of the ideas that we’re implementing at STOIC are the direct result of interactions with our community, especially on this blog. As a result, we need to be very careful to not talk or write about anything that we might want to patent at some point. Since we don’t have a lot of experience in this area, we will apply for a couple of utility patents for the ideas that we feel are truly novel, and use provisional applications for everything else. This should save us quite a bit of time and money.
Design patents are a type of industrial design right. We might apply for some in order to protect our logo, user interface, and icons, but they have a much lower priority on our list, mostly because our designs are very likely to change quite often, especially in the early stages of development.
Like any company, we have trade secrets that need to be protected, and we do that mostly through the use of solid employment contracts and secure communication tools. For the latter, we mostly rely on Google Apps, with the acknowledgement that Google has considerably better and larger resources than us that can be deployed on the IT security front. That being said, trade secrets are not very important for us, especially considering our open kitchen culture. It’s not something that our lawyers are super excited about, but they’re being paid to worry about this kind of things. We’re not. Or to be more precise, we’re being paid to break as many rules as possible, so that we can out-innovate and out-execute our competition. Game on!