Protecting Your Most Valuable Asset – Your Intellectual Property!
If you have a business, then you have valuable intellectual property such as your business name, your ideas, your trademarks, your patents, your copyrights, etc. This intellectual property may be as valuable as the business itself and often times may be your business’ most valuable asset. As a result, protecting your intellectual property is crucial to your business success.
Some of the most common documents used for protection for your intellectual property are non-disclosure agreements. These types of agreements can be indispensable for new ventures when it comes to protecting your ideas, business plans, marketing plans, and other proprietary information. When you form an organization, you generally must spend a great deal of time revealing your valuable intellectual property to suppliers, distributors, employees, and other key relationships. As a result, you should ensure you have the proper protection by creating a non-disclosure agreement. Also, non-competition agreements or covenants not to compete are also important to include in your employment contracts and any contracts for the sale of a business.
Other than agreements, there are a number of different ways to protect different types of intellectual property. The following is an overview of the different forms of intellectual property.
If your business has developed a new and better product or process that is unique, useful, and non-obvious (e.g. an invention), you should protect your competitive advantage by obtaining a patent. A patent is the grant of property right to an inventor of a patentable invention issued by the US Patent and Trademark Office in the United States or comparable authority in another country or region. When you are protected, you can stop third parties from making, using or selling your invention for a period of years depending on the type of invention. Additionally, if your business is one in which inventions are created on a continuing basis, it is very important to have a clear understanding about who owns those inventions. In some cases, it may be necessary to have your employees sign an agreement ensuring inventions created by them while working for your business belong to your business.
A copyright provides protection for original works of authorship, fixed in a tangible medium of expression including literary, musical, and dramatic works, as well as photographs, audio and visual recordings, software, and other intellectual works. Copyright protection begins as soon as the work is fixed in a tangible medium. The author should begin using a copyright symbol immediately as a method of informing others that he or she intends to exercise control over the production, distribution, display, and or performance of the work. Typically, it is not necessary to file for copyright protection but doing so will make it easier to seek court enforcement of your copyright.
A trademark protects the name of your product by preventing other businesses from selling a product under the same name. Having a unique and identifiable name for your product is an advantage for your business. Trademark law seeks to protect consumers from confusion or deception by preventing other businesses from using the same or a confusingly similar name for their products. A service mark is used when what your business sells is a service rather than a product. Being the first to use the name is important to protect the continuing right to use the name, but filing is important for enforcement purposes. The first step in filing for trademark registration is performing a trademark search. This step is extremely important because it could prevent you from investing a lot in the promotion of a product under a trademark that is already in use.
Trade secrets are information (e.g. formulas, patterns, programs, methods, techniques, or processes) that derive independent economic value from not being generally known to the public and that your business had taken steps to maintain its secrecy. All businesses should take appropriate steps to protect their trade secrets by making written agreements with employees and contractors to ensure they are taking sufficient steps to keep their information secret.
If your business hasn’t protected its intellectual property, be sure to set up an appointment today by contacting Ken Mitchell-Phillips at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclaimer: The following resource and all information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. This information is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship, and the receipt or viewing of it does not create or constitute an attorney-client relationship. You should not act upon any information contained in this article without consulting an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation.