These days, intellectual property (IP) can be the most valuable property that a company owns, but it can be very difficult to safeguard what you have.
Protecting your company’s IP requires a multifaceted approach, whether you’re an entrepreneur who is running a one-person operation, the head of a startup or the owner of a well-established business. The following tips can help you prevent others from copying, using or selling your original work without your permission.
Understand the value of copyrights, patents and trademarks
Copyrights, patents and trademarks are the three most basic forms of IP protection. When you obtain these, you give yourself more power to fight back against IP theft or abuses.
Copyrights protect any original works that you author, including books, screenplays, works of art and music compositions (among other things). Patents protect inventions, like the telephone, or design elements of a functional item, like the classic shape of a glass Coca-Cola bottle. Trademarks protect your brand name, logo and service marks, of all which are part of your brand identity.
Get your business, product and domain names locked down
Unless you want to risk a lengthy court battle with Joe’s Crab’s Shack, you can’t name your own business “Joe’s Crab Shack.” Nor can you call your new creation an iPhone. When you come up with a great idea for a product or brand identity, make sure that you take the appropriate steps to secure those names for your business.
You also want to make sure that you grab the domain names that you want to use with your business as soon as you can. Otherwise, you may find yourself one day paying a substantial sum to purchase those domains from their owners.
Make careful use of confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements
Everybody who has access to your company’s IP has crucial information that you need to protect – which can be done with confidentiality agreements or non-disclosure agreements. From your partners to the independent contractor who builds your website for your new product launch, it’s wise to have these agreements in place to help discourage leaks and IP theft.
It can be hard to mitigate all the risks to your company on your own. Seeking qualified legal guidance can help you make smart decisions and take the appropriate steps to secure your future.