Protecting Your Intellectual Property

Editor’s note: This article is intended to provide readers with general information and guidelines.  We advise all individuals to consult with a qualified attorney before finalizing any legal decisions, including those related to intellectual property.

It was not too long ago developing and protecting your Intellectual Property (IP), was the key to business success. Recently we’ve seen a change as companies such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook have all secured business success less on the back of defensible IP and more by rapid market engagement. While this tactic has proven successful in the modern Internet and mobile age, more often than not many start-ups are best served by protecting themselves.

The primary items your business has a right to protect include: patents, trademarks, registered designs, copyright, and confidentiality/trade secrets. It is important to note different IP rights can vary in what protections they offer, and often you may need to use more than one type to fully protect yourself and your business.

The next step to protecting yourself is to audit your business to identify what it is you are going to patent. It is important to recognize, you’ll want to secure not only those items which are important to you, but also any unique ideas/concepts which might be important to your competitors.

In order to save yourself time and money performing your due diligence on existing patents is a must. Going through the processor of obtaining a patent or registered trademark, only to find someone else has beaten you to the punch is a costly error. You can perform your own IP searches first, by starting with a Google patent search at google.com/patents.

It is especially important if you are discussing your concept/idea/product with anyone outside yourself, you ensure you legally protect yourself and your idea. Be sure all company contracts both with employees, customers, and partners clearly state the ownership of ideas developed by the company. In addition for employees, partners, as well as whenever you are speaking with someone who is not already under contract with your company, you will want to work with an attorney to develop strong non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements. If the cost of an attorney in your local area is cost-prohibitive, feel free to investigate options out of your home state. As you’ll be protecting your IP at the federal level, the individual state intricacies are not as important as they might be with other legal issues.

Another important item to remember is as you continue to build and develop your IP, you will need to continue to audit these updates for additional submittals. Unfortunately many companies often recognize they need to protect their initial ideas, but as the company grows and expands they fail to submit new IP into the process.

A final step all business owners should be aware of is it is not enough only to submit and receive copyright or trademarks on their IP. It is also important you prosecute and defend yourself and company against IP theft or infringement. Failing to do so can in some cases lead to the loss of protection the copyright and trademarks are meant to provide.

Protecting your IP is not a single step, or as simple as filing paperwork one time. The process is lengthy, but for many business it can represent the difference between the success or failure of their company. While this article hopefully provides some light on the steps you need to take to protect your IP, working with a qualified attorney remains the best way to ensure you and your business are protected.

About author

Joseph Brady
Joseph Brady 21 posts

Joseph Brady has been involved in growing businesses since 2004. Focused on improving their marketing efforts both on and offline, he has spent considerable time working as a search engine marketing consultant assisting business increase both the quantity and quality of web traffic.

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