Protecting your business's intellectual property is vital to its ongoing success. Many business owners are unclear about exactly what their intellectual property is and how they should protect it. Any unique item that you have made that provides economic benefits is intellectual property. Protecting your IP is done differently depending on what it is. Understanding how to protect your unique business ideas will prevent someone else from stealing your work and profiting from it.
If you have authored an original and tangible work, you should protect it with a copyright. Copyrightable material includes:
- Dramatic works
- Video and audio recordings
As soon as your work is created in a tangible form, copyright protection begins. While formally filing for this protection is not absolutely necessary, it is better when enforcing your copyright through the court. Conduct research to weigh the pros and cons of filing for your business.
Maybe you have developed an invention. When you invent a better or new process or product that has useful, unique and non-obvious features, getting a patent will give you protective rights over it. As the patent holder, you will be able to prevent others from using, making or selling your invention for a certain amount of years. Hiring an attorney who practices patent law can help you understand the complicated patent process.
If you continuously develop inventions through your business, you must understand who owns each invention. Do the employees own them? Does your business own them? Depending on your work arrangement, you may come to different conclusions. Having all employees sign an agreement acknowledging who owns the inventions is important to avoid legal complications.
Protecting your product's name is done by registering a trademark. This keeps other businesses from using the same name for their product. Having an easily identifiable and unique product name allows your business to be competitive. Trademarking product names also helps reduce confusion and deception among consumers. While using the name first is crucial to protecting your right to the name, filing helps with court enforcement. The first thing you should do when filing is conduct a trademark search. This prevents you from investing and planning too much in a product that already has a trademark in use.
The process of protecting your intellectual property can be confusing, but it is worth it. Consulting an attorney with business law experience can help you complete the process smoothly and accurately to secure your unique ideas and creations.