When you run a business, you orchestrate many moving parts that work toward a common goal. But your company is more than a collection of bookshelves and office space. What makes your business unique is its proprietary way of baking a cookie, meeting customers’ needs, or providing goods and services.
Like most business owners, you may take things like your company logo, slogan, and website for granted. You understand they’re important, but you don’t consider them to be intellectual property. But they are. And if you don’t do the work to know how to protect your intellectual property, you may be subject to liability. Or you may find out that someone else is stealing your business ideas, but you have no way to enforce your right.
That’s where intellectual property protection comes in. With the right intellectual property plan, you can protect your ideas, assets, and investments at the state and federal levels.
We help business owners prepare and implement an effective intellectual property protection plan. Ashley Brewer focuses her law practice on assisting businesses to create an intellectual property portfolio that encompasses essential aspects of the company, such as names, brands, and more. She has helped dozens of business owners understand how to protect intellectual property and the importance of doing so.
Use Non-Disclosure Agreements to Protect Your Ideas
One of the best ways to proactively protect your business venture is to keep trade secrets and plans on a need-to-know basis. Further, making sure that those who know these things are under an obligation to keep what they know under wraps is critical. If they violate the non-disclosure agreement and tell people about your new business idea before you even use it, you have recourse. Without these agreements, people can steal your ideas with virtually no way for you to stop them.
Non-disclosure agreements are essential at any business stage. But they can be particularly effective for those who are just starting out. Collaborate and brainstorm with other founders in confidence without worrying that they’re going to run off and use your idea without your permission.
Do Your Research Early On
There are many stages of starting a business. And it’s not like the organization stops once you incorporate. Good business owners are constantly finding new ways to grow the company, whether through unique branding, products, or creating downloadable content for their websites.
You may be so engrossed in developing these aspects of your business that you don’t realize that the business name, for example, is already trademarked.
Save yourself the hassle and do the research early on. To check if your business name is trademarked at the federal level, search the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website. Make sure to do the same thing at the state level. For example, you can conduct a Florida trademark search by going to the Florida Department of State’s website.
Understand (and Use) the Different Types of Intellectual Property Protection
You’ve probably heard terms like copyright, trademark, and patent. But you may not know the differences. Understanding how they differ can give you a framework to identify aspects of your business that might require or be eligible for protection of intellectual property.
Copyright protection encompasses written works, such as articles, books, blogs, artwork, or music. In theory, the work is protected as soon as it’s published, which includes putting it on a CD, handwriting it, or making it available on a computer.
But there are additional steps you can take to ensure that your rights are protected. Part of the automatic protection is proving that you created it and were the first to use it. Accurate records help document your creation and use of the works, as does filing for copyright protection.
Trademarks are “words, symbols, designs, or some combination of these that identifies your goods or services.” The Nike business name and the signature swoosh are examples of trademarks.
Your business name, slogan, and logo should be protected. If you have not done so already, conduct a trademark search or talk to a trademark attorney to find out how to file for protection.
Patents protect inventions, which include formulas. If your business sells goods, your recipe or designs may be patentable. An attorney can help you understand what can be patented and how to complete the often lengthy patent process.
BrewerLong—We Can Help You Protect Your Intellectual Property
If you run a business and want to know how to protect its intellectual property, contact our experienced legal team today to schedule a consultation.
Protecting your intellectual property is essential to safeguarding your business ideas and products. We have over 14 years of experience helping businesses navigate the complex realm of intellectual property protection. Ashley Brewer focuses her law practice on intellectual property and has spoken and written on the topic.
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