As a business owner, it is essential that you are protective of all aspects of your company from your employees to your assets and on to your intellectual property (IP). The latter brings about the most challenges; however, as it doesn’t comprise a material thing which presses the issue — how can you successfully preserve an idea, concept or representation?
Luckily, there is a whole system of intellectual property laws that work to keep your unique business concepts and industry knowledge private to ensure that you can sustain a competitive advantage. To learn more, read on for three essential things to know about protecting your company’s intellectual property.
1. Understand why it is necessary to protect your company’s intellectual property.
Too many business owners are unaware of how crucial it is for them to be taking steps to protect their company’s intellectual property as thoroughly as possible.
Not only do your IP rights establish your business as different from your competitors, but they also enable you to offer your customers something new and different and constitute an indispensable component of your marketing or branding.
Additionally (should you choose to go down this route), your IP rights can be sold or licensed rendering a significant revenue stream and also utilized as security for loans.
When you adequately protect your IP rights, you are securing them against breach by others and conclusively defend in the courts your single right to adopt, make, market or import it.
Other companies or individuals won’t be able to use, produce, sell or import anything under those IP rights without your permission, and you will earn royalties if and when you choose to license them.
2. Know the types of intellectual property protection.
Generally, there are considered to be three main types of intellectual property protection:
● Trademarks – Applied to safeguard logos, company names, phrases, and symbols;
● Copyrights – Adopted to preserve original works;
● Patents – Utilized to guard manufacturing or design processes.
When it comes to trademarks, by registering yours, you maintain exclusive rights to the usage of it, and no one else can violate that right. The basic rule is that one trademark cannot smear another or cause any confusion.
Copyrights are similar to trademarks in that they offer long-term protection; however, copyrights preserve the rights creators have to their original works (such as literature, music, drama, art, movies, and architecture). In other words, they protect the ways concepts are expressed.
Last but not least, patents serve to guard the fundamental ideas and creations of the entrepreneur. Patents focus on protecting the mechanisms, systems, and elements surrounding the concepts and are usually considered to be the toughest of the laws shielding intellectual property.
3. Obtain professional help.
As with many legal aspects, it is highly recommended that you start working with a professional lawyer as soon as possible to ensure that you are covered from the get-go.
Furthermore, consulting with a legal professional will help you to map out where you intend to sell your goods and services in an effort to think long-term and be proactive about preparing filings for those districts as soon as possible.
A good IP lawyer will help you ascertain what IP you need to protect, as well as assist you in writing up clear non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), thoroughly documenting your business ideas, and effectively utilizing IP designations (such as “patent pending,” “TM,” and “©”).
Together, you can generate a plan that covers all bases and also demonstrates to your competitors and others in the industry that your brilliant ideas are yours —and yours alone.
Do you think you are doing enough to protect your company’s intellectual property?
If so, do you have any tips or strategies to share with other entrepreneurs? If not, what do you think are the biggest challenges you are facing concerning this topic?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Author Bio: Sharon Danso-Missah is the Head of Marketing at Al Tamimi & Company, the largest law firm in the Middle East, with 17 offices across nine countries. Established in 1989, they are a full service commercial firm combining knowledge, experience and expertise to ensure all clients have access to the best legal solutions that are commercially sound and cost effective.