Creating something unique that can be patented or copyrighted is also known as your intellectual property. It can be an invention, idea or a startup business. If this sounds like something you have thought about or created, you will want to protect your intellectual property. It is important to protect it so that someone else doesn’t steal your idea and claim it as your own. If you don’t act fast, you may lose the intellectual property rights.
1) Learn About Intellectual Property – A good first step is learning as much as you can about what intellectual property is and the different ways of protecting it. It even helps to complete this step before discussing your rights with an attorney. Start with the Office of Copyrights at the Library of Congress and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Both have websites with helpful resources.
2) Get Legal Assistance – After you feel confident you understand more about what your rights are, it’s time to get legal help. Talk to an attorney with specific knowledge in intellectual property, not just general or business law. Ask the attorney for a fixed rate to file for rights of your intellectual property.
3) Don’t Imitate Others – When you are trying to protect your intellectual property rights, make sure the idea is 100% your own and not a borrowed idea from someone else. Don’t simply try to imitate another idea or product, but create something entirely unique. It helps to do a little research on similar services, products or business ideas to find out if something just like it already exists.
4) File Quickly – Don’t waste any time when you’re filing for intellectual property rights. The sooner you file, the less chance there is someone else will attempt to patent the same time of idea. After informing a lawyer of your decision to protect your intellectual rights, fill out a patent application and wait the average of 12 months to have it filed . For some patients, it can take up to 5 years to complete, so keep that in mind.
5) Gain an Advantage Over Your Competition – Just because there isn’t currently a lot of competition for your small business idea, product or service, does not mean there won’t be in the future. You still need to protect your intellectual property rights, regardless of your current competition. Make sure to gain an advantage over potential competition by attending special events, conferences and trade shows to increase your own credibility.
6) Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) – Have non-disclosure agreements written up for you to be sure your idea includes the right contracts, licenses and agreements. These all help protect your intellectual property rights.
7) Be Aware of International Patents – If your competitors are mostly outside of the United States, you will need to investigate the International patents. A patent given to you in the U.S. does not protect you against potential ideas that are similar or identical in other countries.
The last thing you should do in order to fully your intellectual property rights is to get insurance. There are indeed intellectual property insurance policies to protect your ideas and business model until the patent process is complete.