In the competitive business world, your company’s intellectual property (IP) is more intrinsically valuable than any physical assets you have or profits you make. The reason? Physical assets can come and go (and can be replaced, if necessary), but your IP helps form your company’s identity and sets it apart. Your IP is what you use to gain profitability. Without it, you lose your competitive edge–and when IP is stolen or compromised, it can cause irreparable damage to your ability to do business.
Unfortunately, the idea of intellectual property is also a bit elusive for some, and for that reason, many business owners fail to understand what makes up their IP, let alone protect it properly. What IP is and why is it so valuable? What are the different way to protect your IP?
Understanding Intellectual Property
Intellectual property refers to intangible creations of the human mind. This includes things like inventions, literary and artistic works, symbols, names, designs, and computer programs. This can also extend to trade secrets, which are confidential pieces of information that give your business a competitive advantage. In certain contexts, even things like certain scents or sound designs can qualify as IP, especially if they form a unique part of your branding.What Makes Your IP Valuable
What makes your company’s IP so important? Well, for starters, it is often what sets your business apart from your competitors. Your unique design, innovative idea, or catchy slogan can be the reason customers choose to do business with you instead of someone else. Or your proprietary software may be the edge that helps your marketing far surpass that of your competitors. Not only that, but your IP can also have significant financial value. Something as simple as a trademarked logo can be worth millions of dollars.
With that in mind, it is easy to see why protecting your company’s IP is crucial. If someone else were to copy your invention or use your trademark without permission, that could cost you customers and revenue. Additionally, if your IP is leaked or stolen, that could mean losing your competitive advantage and potentially even going out of business.
How IP Is Protected
Once you understand your IP and its value to your company, the next question is, how do you protect it from being stolen or compromised? Let us talk about two essential components of IP protection that should be part of any company’s business strategy.
1. Legal Protections
The government provides several mechanisms for you to register your IP and prove legally that you have exclusive rights to it. Once registered, you can sue anyone who infringes on your rights. These protections include:
- Patents: Patents safeguard inventions, granting inventors exclusive rights to their creations for a specified period. This exclusivity can bolster a company’s market position and generate potential revenue through licensing.
- Trademarks: Trademarks distinguish the goods or services of one company from another. These protect symbols, logos, phrases, and other aspects of branding, avoiding consumer confusion and preserving the company’s reputation.
- Copyrights: Copyrights are instrumental in protecting original works of authorship, including literature, music, and artistic works. They confer the creator exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute, and display their work.
(Generally speaking, “trade secrets” that are identifiable can be protected under either patents or copyrights–for example, a proprietary invention could be patented, while a secret recipe or computer code can be copyrighted.)
2. Relational Protection (NDAs)
The other category of IP protection is to ensure that those who are entrusted with your IP it will treat it responsibly. This is where non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) and other confidentiality agreements are essential. These agreements can prevent others from using your trade secrets and proprietary information without your permission. It is also important to have internal policies and procedures in place to prevent leaks and ensure that your company’s IP is kept secure.
Steps to Protect Your Company’s Intellectual Property
- Identify Your IP: Start by understanding and identifying the intellectual property your business holds. It could encompass anything from product designs to branding elements, software codes, or exclusive business methodologies. Look for things that form part of your company’s branding, personality, and competitive advantage.
- Register Your IP: Categorize the various types of IP you’ve identified and begin registering them, whether as patents, copyrights, or trademarks.
- Monitor Your IP: Stay proactive in enforcing your intellectual property rights. Monitor the marketplace for potential infringements and be ready to take legal action if necessary.
At Travis Law, our legal services for businesses include making sure their intellectual property is properly identified and protected. We can coordinate all your registration processes and assist with monitoring and enforcement. Contact us to discuss your IP protection needs.