If you are a business owner, it is likely that your intellectual property (IP) has played a role in the growth of your business. Intellectual property is the expression of ideas in either a creative, scientific, or business method. You have the right to legally protect your original ideas and work in a variety of ways. The strength of the protection you have could lead to a significant impact on the success or failure of your business. In this blog, we’ll be giving an overview of the modes of IP protection available to you, as well as the challenges you face with weak or absent protection, and some of the best practices for safeguarding your ideas.
Forms Of IP Protection
A patent is a form of protection which is an exclusive right granted for an invention, product, or process that generally presents a new way of doing something or a new way of solving a problem. In order to obtain patent protection, technical information about the invention must be disclosed to the public through a patent application filed to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. This grants the patent owner the right to prevent their invention from being exploited by others who want to make, use, distribute, import, or sell it without consent.
Patents are the most complex and difficult form of IP protection to obtain, and it can take more than two years from the filing date to be issued. Most business owners apply for a type of patent called a utility patent. Some common types of inventions that would call for a utility patent would be:
- A process or method
- A machine
- An article of manufacture
- A composition of matter
- An improvement of an invention that fits in one of the above categories
Trademarks are a form of IP protection reserved for brands, which include their logos, taglines, and company names, and protect them from being imitated. To trademark your business and obtain commercial rights, all you have to do is be the first to use it. You can also register your trademark through the U.S. Patent Trademark Office for additional protection.
A copyright protection is intended to give rights to the creator of an original work. The creator must file for protection through the U.S. Copyright Office, which is run through the Library of Congress. Once approved, the original work may not be printed, published, performed, filmed, recorded or used in any way without authorization from the creator. A copyright can protect:
- Literary works like books, newspaper articles, speeches, and poems
- Musical pieces such as lyrics and songs
- Dramatic pieces like plays and musicals
- Pictures, graphics, and sculptures
- Audiovisual works
Finally, you may wish to protect a trade secret. A trade secret is any information pertaining to your business that should remain confidential due to the commercial value that it generates. You’ve probably even recently enjoyed the most famous of all trade secrets in existence right now: the recipe for Coca-Cola! While there are legal options for anyone looking to protect a trade secret and keep it out of the hands of competitors, the company and its employees play a crucial role in safeguarding them. Some ways you can ensure your business’s secrets are kept are to closely monitor information storage, secure your online platforms and computers, and limit public access to the company.
Why Is Intellectual Property Protection So Critical To The Life Of Your Business?
No matter how small or large your business is, there are 3 reasons why protecting your intellectual property should be one of your top priorities:
- Your intellectual property has value. If you’ve worked tirelessly to create a new product or discover a more efficient way of doing something, you should be the one benefitting from that ingenuity. If you leave your creations up for the taking, they will be taken! Not only does IP protection keep them safe, but leads to consequences for anyone who tries to steal them. For example, they could be forced to pay you any profits they’ve made from your protected property.
- If everyone has it, it’s not special anymore. It sounds harsh to say, but it’s true: why would a person choose to drink Coke as opposed to a generic-brand cola? Because for over 100 years, the well-protected recipe for this classic American drink has not been able to be replicated. The lesson every business owner can learn from The Coca-Cola Company is that when you have something that no one else has, you keep it to yourself!
- You can build your reputation and establish your reputation. Protecting your IP is especially important if your business is new and you are still trying to build your brand, build your customer base, and secure investments or partnerships. By establishing ownership of your intellectual property, you can prove the legitimacy of your business and build trust with your stakeholders.
Legal Strategies For IP Protection
One of the most important ways you can take proactive measures to protect your intellectual property is to obtain experienced and knowledgeable legal guidance. An attorney will be able to implement legal tools to keep IP confidential in a cost-effective way. Some of those tools might be:
- Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) – a document to be signed by an individual who agrees not to share confidential information either accidentally or intentionally
- Employment agreements – a document to be signed by a new employee who might contribute to the company’s IP that clearly defines the company’s stance on IP ownership and confidential information they might handle during their time at the company
- Invention Disclosure Records – confidential documents written by the inventor or creator which detail how the product or machine is built and how it solves a particular problems
Zecca Ross & Smith Law Firm P.C. Can Help Protect Your Business And Your Ideas
Don’t let another day go by with your ideas and inventions at risk of being exploited! Our firm has over 20 years of experience in business law and the legal issues that business owners face. Call today to request a free consultation and learn more about how we can secure your intellectual property swiftly and efficiently.