The Basics of Protecting Intellectual Property

Posted on: 10 March 2020

Few investments a company makes are as important as the development of its intellectual property. IP covers a wide range of legally defensible items, from a company's logo to the patents it holds. It's important to know the following three basic steps you should take to defend your business's IP.

Move Early to Protect Your Intellectual Property

Make sure you have your business properly configured before you attempt to develop any IP. Startup companies need other legal protections beyond their IP rights, and that means squaring up in terms of incorporating and registering your business, setting up financial accounts, and obtaining licenses and certifications.

With that stuff in place, you'll want to develop your IP to a protectable state as quickly as possible. That means creating trademarks, copyrights, patents, and trade secrets that are legally defensible. File the appropriate paperwork to ensure you will have ground to stand on when it comes time to protect your intellectual property.

Even if you're in an early startup stage, start protecting your IP. Yes, it's another startup cost, but you don't want to lose thousands or millions of dollars down the road trying to save hundreds today. There is an early registration process for some trademarks that allows you to apply before your company gets rolling.

Know What Types of IP You Have

People make mistakes all the time by using the wrong parts of the system to protect their interests. If you're using copyright filings to protect things that should be trademarked, such as logos and service marks, you're going to end up having legal actions dismissed by courts. Talk with intellectual property protection attorneys to learn what the different forms of protection are and how they apply to specific kinds of IP.

Also, understand what can't be registered. Some formulas for products aren't patentable, for example. Similarly, recipes can only be copyrighted as part of a large literary work.

Think Broadly and Creatively

Most IP protections only apply to specific uses, industries, and applications. For example, Apple Records and Apple Computers didn't come into conflict until the tech company started selling music players and songs.

It's a good idea to think broadly about how your intellectual property might be copied, misused or misrepresented by others. Unfair competition comes at businesses from a lot of angles, so don't be afraid to go a little overboard with placing symbols like ©, ®, and TM next to logos, slogans, and other items. 

Talk to an intellectual property protection attorney for more details.