Intellectual Property (IP) is an essential component of any business. This applies to the smallest entity, all the way up to major conglomerates and global brands. Somewhere along the line, there’s an idea or concept that’s unique to your organization and needs to be protected.
Most people have this idea that only ground-breaking concepts need to be protected.
This is not the case.
Even something as simple as your company name and logo is your Intellectual Property and should be covered. If your logo is something recognizable and someone else uses a copy of it, they’ll be trading on the familiarity and trust that you’ve already built with your customers.
If you’re still on the fence about the importance of protecting IP, consider that the economy loses $58 billion annually due to copyright infringement in the US alone. These losses are due to crimes that affect creative works, and it’s not just the economy that loses out. It’s the businesses and individuals behind every idea and execution of it.
There are three different avenues businesses can explore when looking to protect Intellectual Property. These are:
You can use a patent to cover your inventions or plans for new inventions. This can be something as simple as a new design for a notepad to a complex technology advancement. You can apply for a patent on your idea as long as it’s something new, not obvious to those who work in the field, and useful to the world.
If your entire business revolves around this idea for a product or invention, it’s best to get your patent application filed as soon as possible. If someone gets there before you and registers a patent (even if they copied your original idea), you will have to pay them for the rights to build, use or sell the product. In the USA, a patent holder will have a monopoly on the item for 20 years.
Once you have a patent, anyone will be able to see your plans for your concept or invention as they become a matter of public record. However, anyone who wishes to use the idea will have to come to you for permission. If they fail to do so, you can sue.
In the business world, a brand identity is usually covered by a trademark. This includes your company name, the slogan you use, the logo, and the colors and fonts involved in creating your corporate identity. For example, everything you see on a Coca Cola bottle is part of their trademark. The name, the colors, and the font have all been licensed to the brand. That white writing on the red background belongs to them.
There are two types of application that you can file for:
- Current Use
- Intent To Use
As an existing company, you advise the trademark register that you’re actively using a particular branding for your business.
You tell the register that you plan to use a particular branding once your company becomes operational. Existing companies that wish to rebrand and create a new logo fall under this option too.
Under a copyright, you can protect the more creative areas of your business. A copyright is usually used to cover artistic works such as scripts for plays, television shows, and movies. Music (recordings and scores), dance choreography, images (drawn, painted or photographed), and work that has been filmed (anything audiovisual) are all covered by copyrights too.
Other items that can be copyrighted include computer software, architectural drawings, and even website designs.
It’s Never Too Soon To Start Protecting Your IP
Right from the conception of your business, product idea, or invention, you should be thinking about your Intellectual Property and how to protect it.
You can start by putting the first elements in an initial business plan – including the company name, brand identity, and the concepts that make your idea unique compared to competitors.
From here, you’d determine whether filing for a patent, trademark, or copyright best suits your requirements and begin the application process.
The sooner this is done, the more peace of mind you’ll have that a copy-cat won’t target you. And if you do, you’ll have the legal paperwork in place to protect you.
Meta Title: How To Protect Your Intellectual Property | Small Biz Daily
Meta Description: Protecting your Intellectual property is key for any business owner, big or small. Explore the options open to you to keep your ideas and products safe.
With a background in bookkeeping and cloud accounting, Nina Sharpe is a lover of spreadsheets and a freelance writer covering a variety of topics from personal finance to small business development. When she’s not typing away on her trusty laptop, you can find her cycling her favorite trails or brewing a mean cup of single-origin coffee.