Intellectual property refers to intangible assets owned to a business such as its name, designs, literary creations, artistic works, and inventions. Each and every company owns intangible items that can be referred to as intellectual property. These must always be protected.
This is because such property gives rights and registrations to companies that allow them to protect their core business activities as well as carry out research and development. This also gives them an upper hand when it comes to negotiating for counterclaims and cross-licensing. A company can easily dissuade new entrants into the market and block competitive products from rival companies.
Below are ways in which you can protect your business’ intellectual property:
- Start early
At the very beginning of your business, identify your most valuable virtual assets. Determine the best ways in which you can protect them. Intellectual property can be protected in different kinds of ways. There are generally 4 categories of intellectual property: trademarks, patents, copyrights, and trade secrets. Trademarks include things such as company logos, taglines, and names. Patents are issued for inventions and protect against exploitation. New compositions and processes invented by a company can slowly rise to patentable inventions. Copyrights protect works of authorship and creative expressions. These include designs, tests, and artwork. Trade secrets are highly guarded company secrets that have a commercial value.
If a company has a trademark or patent that it wishes to protect, the first step should be protecting it through registration. Searches on Google and databases like USPTO, IP Australia can provide a good preliminary check to see if the trademark already exists. Third-party vendors can then be hired to carry out comprehensive searches.
If the trademark has not been used anywhere else, a federal application should be made to protect it. If it has been taken, consider a new name, tagline, or logo. Patents function similarly. Searches here should be thorough because related lawsuits are normally very expensive. Assess the market value of the patent and involve an experienced attorney before filing a registration application.
If you have information that cannot be patented, keep it as a company trade secret. Trade secrets are less costly and never expire. Unfortunately, they can be easily lost to a competitor. The secret should be highly guarded and only shared with those closest to the business.
Third parties dealing with the company should sign non-disclosure agreements or contracts that have a provision for confidentiality. Any information shared with them remains confidential and cannot be exploited or copied for personal use.
Any intellectual property shared with the company by a private contractor remains to be the property of the contractor unless otherwise agreed to by the contractor in a written contract. It’s highly important for companies to enter into agreements with contractors prior to the commencement of work. Contracts should ensure that property rights are properly assigned to safeguard the work done.
- Keep an eye on your competition
Protection for intellectual property only exists if there are no prior rights assigned to someone else. Find out what competing firms are doing and what is currently considered as ‘state of the art.’ Screen your market and find if there are any rights already registered and how they affect your own. Monitoring the market and watching your competitors doesn’t stop there. Even after registration, people could still try and claim your rights knowingly and unknowingly. You can do this yourself, or hire the services of a professional to identify potential infringers.
- Have adequate internal protection
Every intellectual property protection process starts with keeping a secret. Current laws provide high levels of protection but also require businesses and individuals to protect their trade secrets adequately. In the early development stages, keep it hush. Make sure that all your ideas, know-how and information are well guarded. Have tight controls that ensure no information is leaked. Consider using physical, organizational and technical measures such as encryption and firewall technology, access restrictions, IP policies, and staff training.
- Data protection
Data doesn’t normally fall under intellectual property protection. For most businesses, processing and generating more data is essential for development and growth. Consider putting in place more contractual safeguards to protect your data. This requires you to also adhere to data protection laws, especially where personal information is provided.
Have thorough documentation. This will help you in case you encounter a dispute. Documenting your innovations helps you to protect your business from third-party claims. It acts as evidence and proof of intellectual property, know-how, integrity and ownership. At the end of the day, it increases your chances of having a positive outcome in the case.
Despite your business having all sorts of resources, taking a professional approach towards intellectual property protection could be the one thing that will help save your business and keep your gold coast office. It also helps when it comes to seeing your business. An enforceable and valid protection policy can greatly boost such a transaction.