For many emerging companies, the most valuable assets are ones that aren’t tangible. It’s easy to think of property as only the physical things you use to build your business. In reality, though, the most important building blocks for your company are usually the things you can’t touch – your brand, your inventions, your designs. Your intellectual property is often the lifeblood of your business, and it’s crucial that you protect it from theft just as you would your physical property.
Developing the Right Intellectual Property Strategy
You work hard to develop your intellectual property, so it only makes sense that you would work just as hard to protect it from others who want to steal it or misuse it. Legal IP protections are crucial, but they won’t always stop someone who’s intent on wrongfully benefitting from your intellectual property. It’s up to you to fight for and protect your work.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to help make your intellectual property more secure. The following steps will go a long way toward defending your IP from misuse.
Obtain Legal IP Protection
Registering your intellectual property is a critical first step in protecting it. Legally protecting your IP involves registering trademarks and copyrights, and applying for patents. If you plan to market your product overseas, you might want to investigate obtaining protection in other countries as well. Taking these initial actions will help if you later end up in a dispute over the rights to your work. And, by publicly claiming your work, you’ll deter some of the would-be infringers out there.
In the event that someone tries to misuse your IP, you’ll want as much evidence as possible on your side. Ideally, you should start documenting your ideas from the moment you first have them. Keep track of all the work you do on a new idea, including the steps in the development process and any meetings you have about it, especially when those meetings occurred and who was at them. You’ll also want copies of your registrations, documentation of when they’re used, and copies of your on-time renewals.
Make Sure Your Secrets Stay Secret
One of the best ways to protect your intellectual property while you’re developing it is to not talk about it. Your designs and inventions should only be discussed on a need-to-know basis. This may mean getting partners, employees, and investors to sign nondisclosure and noncompete agreements. It’s also something to keep in mind if you’re considering outsourcing any of your work to a third party.
Keep Your Eye on the Competition
In most cases, you’ll only know someone is misusing your IP if you’re on the lookout for it. The best way to monitor for possible infringers is by keeping your finger on the pulse of the market. Keep an eye on new companies in the industry and new products on the market. Internet search alerts and periodic trademark searches can be a big help.
Fight for Your Rights
Despite the best efforts, infringement and misuse still happen. If they do, be prepared to take action. Sometimes sending cease and desist letters or takedown notices will do the trick. Other times you may have to be more aggressive, requesting a court injunction or even filing a lawsuit if all else fails.
Taking the necessary steps to protect your IP may seem expensive or time-consuming, but the costs down the road will be far greater if you don’t take the right steps up front. An experienced IP attorney can help you implement the right intellectual property strategy from the start. Knowing that your IP is safe means that you can focus your time on making money from it, which is why you started your business in the first place.
Intellectual Property Guidance for Growing Businesses
At The Gouchev Law Firm in New York, we work with businesses of all sizes, including start-ups and franchise businesses. Call us at (212) 537-9209 or schedule a free strategy session today to see what The Gouchev Law Firm can do for your business.