5 Essential Tips for Protecting Your IP

Information is quickly becoming easier to access and distribute; that sounds great, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, the downside is that it makes it harder to safeguard your intellectual property (IP) or product ideas from theft and copying. Whether you are a start-up or a multinational company, taking steps to protect your intellectual property should be a priority for your business.

Trust us, the old adage by Benjamin Franklin – “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” – strongly applies where your IP is concerned. Major disputes over IP have been sprinkled throughout history – Apple vs. Microsoft, Apple vs. Google, Harley Davidson vs. Honda, the fallout between Mark Zuckerberg and the Winklevoss brothers amidst the founding of Facebook. Even at the large corporate scale, intellectual property is vulnerable to theft and disputes. Let’s dive into ways that you can protect your brand from harm.

But first, what defines intellectual property in your case?

What exactly is intellectual property?

Everyone talks about IP, but what exactly does the term encompass? Essentially, intellectual property is any product or work that resulted from original thought. Examples are manuscripts, designs, artwork, website content, blog posts and articles, inventions, business names, product names, online programs or courses, or other original confidential information that benefits your business.

If you come up with a great idea, design, or product, you want to make sure that no one else has the right to use it without your permission. The good news is that intellectual property is protected by various federal and state laws.

Steps to Safeguarding Your Intellectual Property

You can protect your business’s important content, products, and ideas by following the steps below. These steps should lower your chances of dealing with intellectual property theft and will give you protection if someone does steal your IP.

1. Keep Business Ideas and Trade Secrets Just That... a Secret

Until you have adequately secured your intellectual property, avoid talking about it with others, unless they have signed a nondisclosure agreement. You must be careful who you trust with this key information, and don’t promote your idea in any sort of public forum, such as Kickstarter. This is especially important if you’re working with partners; you should speak with an attorney and sign tailored non-disclosure agreements.

2. Document Your Concepts and Original Content in Detail

Have detailed drawings, descriptions, plans, and records that can prove you came up with and have been working on your intellectual property. This type of proof will help in case someone challenges you as the rightful owner of your trademarks and copyrights. Make sure you have added dates wherever possible because first date of use is critical in IP matters.

Similarly to most other legal aspects of your business, the more thorough your paper trail is, the safer you will be.

As soon as you have a business name and logo for your idea, you should register those trademarks right away. A good and memorable trademark registered with the USPTO will give you an advantage over competitors.

It’s a simple step, but a crucial place to start.

4. Register All Your IP, Trade Secrets, and Creative Works

Along with your trademarks, work with your IP attorney to register the rest of your assets. Write down all the details of your intellectual property so you can register and distinguish it from potentially existing similar ideas. It’s a good idea to consider doing an IP audit with your attorney so you have a formal IP portfolio documented.

5. Make the Investment

Remember, before you have officially secured your intellectual property, anyone can take your idea and create it for themselves. Your odds of beating content and idea thieves are so much higher if your intellectual property is protected.

To sum up, you likely have much more intellectual property than you’re aware of. Most brands have no idea how much IP surrounds them, and how vulnerable it could be. Securing your intellectual property rights does require finding a good attorney to help you discover, document, and register it, and making that investment now will pay off significantly when building and profiting from your IP portfolio. It will help safeguard what is rightfully yours if any issues arise in the future.

At Artisan Law, we specialize in identifying and protecting IP for our clients. We can spot the holes or gaps in your shield, and strengthen it to keep you from vulnerability. Don’t wait to protect your IP until it’s too late!