Depending on the type of small business you own or operate, your entity’s intellectual property may be worth far more than its actual, tangible assets. Intellectual property, or any type of work or invention that comes from the human creative mind, can include anything from patented materials to company trade secrets, and if someone or something compromises or gets a hold of it, it may lose its value.
Thus, learning how to protect your intellectual property is an important step for any small business owner hoping to protect business innovations and set the stage for long-term success. So, just how can you go about protecting your intellectual property portfolio?
Learn the basics
The first step in protecting intellectual property involves understanding the process and the various methods you may use to do so, such as trademarks, patents and copyrights. Studying up now can save you considerable time, money and hardship down the line.
Protect your valuable works from the outset
When you hire someone new, it is always wise to have them sign comprehensive nondisclosure agreements that protect your company’s intellectual property. Make sure any employment contracts or agreements you utilize do the same.
Submit patent applications promptly
When you apply for a patent, keep in mind that you may not receive it for five years or longer. Filing patent applications right away, however, secures your place in a line that may otherwise just keep getting longer.
Research international patents
You may perform a patent search in the United States and find nothing, and therefore assume it is safe to move forward with yours. You would be remiss to do so, however, without performing an international patent search first. A U.S. patent is not going to hold up against competitors from other countries.
This is just a brief summary of some of the steps you can take to protect your business’s intellectual property. It is not, however, an exhaustive list of all recommended actions.