Information is becoming easier and easier to access and distribute, making it harder to safeguard your intellectual property 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.

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, your 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 some essential steps. Following 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 a Secret

Until you have adequately secured your intellectual property, avoiding 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. Especially 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.

3. Apply for a Trademark

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.

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

Along with your trademarks, work with your IP attorney to 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, but 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. Securing your intellectual property rights does require finding a good attorney to help you discover, document, and register it, but making that investment now will pay off significantly when building and profiting from your IP portfolio, and it will help safeguard what is rightfully yours if any issues arise in the future.