For many businesses and startups, the decision to protect intellectual property is one of the most difficult to make. Even after it’s made, it’s also one of the most difficult decisions for many businesses to follow up on. The primary reason is that you simply don’t know the next move you should make. These tips will help you protect your intellectual property so your business can focus on what it does best – bringing new ideas and innovations to life.
1) File Quickly – Once you’ve come up with the idea, you should protect it – even if you haven’t yet worked out the details. This is the case for many reasons. First, you need to protect the idea. You have twelve months in which you can expand on your initial filing. Second, patents can take quite a while to issue – in excess of five years in the U.S. Finally, the application itself serves to hold your place in the rush for the patent.
2) Know the Specific Intellectual Property Protection You Need – Different situations call for different types of intellectual property protection. You need to educate yourself and leaders within your company about which type of protection is needed for which situation and why.
- Trademarks – this protects the names of the products your company creates so that competitors can’t sell similar products with the same name in order to confuse or deceive consumers.
- Copyrights – this protects the authorship of written works, music, drama, art, audio recordings, software, videos, photographs, and other intellectual works. It isn’t legally necessary to file for copyright protection of works that have been presented in a fixed media (put to paper, recording, film, or other tangible formats) as they are already copyrighted, but it is often advantageous to do so.
- Patents – patents are often the most complex intellectual property issues for many businesses to understand. They allow inventors to secure exclusive rights to their discoveries – for a specified period of time. That period of time varies according to the specific type of patent awarded.
- Trade Secrets – these also fall under the large umbrella of intellectual property. However, they are the most difficult to secure for many businesses that require these secrets to be revealed to some employees. In these instances, revealing documents related to the trade secrets should be clearly stamped with the words “Trade Secret” and employees should be required to sign a proprietary information and inventions agreement before having access to that sensitive information.
3) Hire an Intellectual Property Lawyer – It may seem like a big investment, but will pay for itself over time – especially if you intend to file multiple patents. However, it remains useful even for businesses who only file once as it ensures you get it right the first time.
4) Set Realistic Expectations – Simply filing a patent for an idea or invention isn’t going to make you instantly wealthy. It isn’t even going to ensure that people are going to flock to buy your products. You must still create the product, test it, and market it in order to get a reaction from the buying public and turn the idea, blood, sweat, and tears into profit for your business.
5) Obtain NDAs to Protect Your Property – Non-disclosure agreements are necessary when you can’t avoid letting anyone other than yourself know about the intellectual property in question. Get them signed by anyone who is informed about the product in the developmental stages no matter how insignificant their exposure may seem.
6) Know What Intellectual Property You have the Right to Develop – Employers need to have employees sign an assignment-of-inventions agreement upon employment that gives the business ownership of intellectual property that is created by them for the business. If you do not have this agreement with employees, you may not have the right to develop these intellectual properties.
7) Purchase Proper Insurance – Businesses dealing with intellectual property need to have excellent general business insurance. However, they also need to invest in intellectual property insurance to protect their intellectual property as well as their physical property.
Small steps can deliver big results when you’re trying to protect the intellectual property of your business. These tips will help you get your efforts off to an excellent start.