Every business possesses intellectual property, and this can actually make up a lot of their property and processes. Without your intellectual property, your business isn’t going to do well, and it might not function at all. Intellectual property is usually divided into copyrights, patents, trademarks, and trade secrets.
Copyright offers protection for artistic expressions within a tangible medium. This includes website copy and content, marketing materials, photographs, and materials used for training and sales. Just by creating it, you hold the copyright to these things, but for more valuable works, you may want to register the copyright with the government. This provides you with documentation of your copyright ownership, and it prevents your competitors from stealing your work.
Patents protect any physical thing that you create, including inventions, machines, formulas, devices, and processes. It can take a year or more to acquire a patent, and the process can be complicated, but once issued, the invention cannot be manufactured or marketed by anyone other than the patent holder. The patent remains in effect for two decades, before entering the public domain. At this point, the invention can be used by anyone. An international patent is necessary when the competition is located in a foreign country. When a product or item is designed by a company, and not patented, the profits and intellectual property of the company are both at risk.
The name, symbols, sounds, and phrases used to promote a business all fall under trademarks, and they can be registered and protected. Unlike copyrights, trademarks are not granted just by creating a logo or a slogan. You need to go through the process of registering your trademark If the trademark is not registered, competitors can steal your ideas and use them to lure away customers. It is a good idea to get your trademarks in line before revealing a logo or other marketing material, so there isn’t a chance for it to be stolen. A trademark is good for a decade, and it is renewable.
A trade secret is any device or technique that you use to create your products that you have innovated. Its value relies on keeping it a secret, so this is incredibly important to protect. This is especially significant if the information is exclusive, private, and designed specifically for the business. Trade secrets include selling methods, business plans, and financial information. The most common way to ensure trade secrets are protected is with non-disclosure agreements for any document considered sensitive and for employees who work with your trade secrets.
The Importance of Safeguarding Intellectual Property
If you want your brand to represent your properly and if you want to be able to profit from the work you put into your products, you need to make sure that you are paying attention to your intellectual property and the protections you put in place. Nothing is worse than putting a lot of work into your business and having it get stolen because you forgot to protect it.