All too often, new businesses fail to realize just how valuable their intellectual property is. When it comes to valuing your business, you probably think first of your tangible property, like your physical place of business, your equipment and inventory, and your profits. However, failing to realize the potential value inherent in your intellectual property would be a huge mistake.
Chances are, your intellectual property might be the most valuable asset your business has. That’s particularly true if you’re in a creative field or are working to develop innovative products. Your intellectual property has a huge ability to impact your bottom line. That’s why you need to take all the possible steps to protect it.
There are different types of intellectual property out there, and it’s important to know which ones apply to your business and assets.
Patents protect the property rights you have in your inventions. You obtain a patent by filing an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), which can be a lengthy and tedious process. Patents are granted to innovations that are new, original, and can’t obviously be made by others with standard skills in your industry.
Once you apply for and obtain a patent, you have the exclusive right to profit from your invention. Your patent prevents anyone else from making, selling, or otherwise using your innovations without your permission. If someone else tries to copy your invention or profit from it, a patent gives you the power to take legal action against the infringer.
Unfortunately, patents don’t last forever, so you need to be sure to renew your patents at the appropriate time to ensure that you continue to be the only one who can reap the value of your hard work.
Trademarks deal with the markings that distinguish your business from others, as opposed to your physical innovations. They can include, words, logos, symbols, phrases, or other designs that are uniquely associated with your business and set your brand apart from your competition.
In order to qualify for intellectual property protection, the trademark must be distinctive, and not simply a common phrase or name that many businesses use. Technically, you obtain rights to your trademark just by using it, but taking the steps to formally register the trademark with the USPTO will make it a lot easier to enforce your rights against infringers.
Before you register your trademark, you need to search state and federal databases to make sure that there isn’t already a similar trademark in existence. These searches can also save you from unknowingly infringing on someone else’s intellectual property or attempting to register a trademark that’s already taken. Like patents, your trademarks need to be periodically renewed so that you continue to have exclusive rights to your mark.
Related to trademarks is trade dress, which applies the same concepts to the visual aspects of your product that are used for promotion or marketing, like packaging, how the product is displayed, or even distinctive business décor. Like trademarks, trade dress protection is obtained through use, but formal registration gives you the ability to legally enforce your rights against others looking to infringe on your trade dress.
You’ve worked hard to build your business, create your inventions, and define your brand. It’s important that your hard work not go to waste by allowing others to improperly profit from it. Implementing a comprehensive intellectual property plan for your business and securing the necessary protections is the only way to fully capitalize on the value of some of your greatest assets.
Intellectual Property Guidance For Growing Businesses
At The Gouchev Law Firm in New York, we work with businesses of all sizes, including startups 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.