We’ve been exploring various aspects of intellectual property, what it includes and how to make the most of your smart ideas. From the name of your company to the inventions you may be creating, to the content you develop, intellectual property is something you need to pay attention to. In the midst of running a business, this kind of detail can too often get put on the backburner and that would be a mistake.
In order to monetize your intellectual assets through royalties and other vehicles, protecting that property through patent, trademark, copyright, and licensing should be your default position. There is a lot to lose if you don’t.
We have seen entrepreneurs create a brand, buy a website and start generating revenue, only to receive a cease and desist order from a larger entity that has a similar brand, name, product or service. Further, that company had the legal protection of copyrights, trademarks and legally protected intellectual property to back their order up. Without the actual legal protection for your property in hand, your recourse is extremely limited.
With all this in mind, let’s take a quick walk through the intellectual property that may need protection in your business.
When you have a big idea that is unique to the marketplace and could generate some revenue, a patent is your first line of defense. A patent protects you by excluding others from making, using, selling, or importing an invention. It gives you legal recourse when others violate the patent provisions.
If you have material like articles, books, or music, copyright protection should be put in place. In a post on the subject, we showed how and why to register a copyright on your creative ideas that are put into words, images, symbols, or sound.
A trademark is too often the kind of detail lost in the shuffle by a busy entrepreneur. Don’t let that happen to you. A great name, phrase, or logo can get yanked out from under you if you don’t secure the trademark first. To learn more about how to research and register a trademark, check this out.
Lastly, licensing is a way of not just protecting your intellectual property, but setting up agreements to be paid for by that intellectual property. Licensing allows other entities to use or simply enjoy your work in exchange for a set monetary value placed on that use and enjoyment.
With all of these legal instruments, the onus of protecting intellectual property is squarely on your shoulders as the creator of that intellectual property. You can skate along without a copyright or trademark, but when it becomes a problem, it can become a big problem. If someone else is using the name you have for your business, and you have not registered the trademark, your cease and desist case can be an uphill climb. If neither of you has registered, it can turn into a protracted legal battle. Better to spend a little time and money on the front end than spend massive legal fees on a potentially losing battle.
And if you create a unique solution to a common problem through an invention, please consider a patent. Without it, the market potential of your invention could be realized by someone else who took the time to apply for a patent, or who stole your idea outright.
We get it. You are neck-deep in P&L statements, making sure vendors are delivering their work as promised, staffing up and filling the pipeline with new clients – an entrepreneur’s day is never done. But doing the work and protecting your intellectual property is a vital priority and time well spent.