Covering Your Assets: Identify and Protect your Business' Intellectual Property
by Crystal Broughan, Intellectual Property Law Attorney
Do you have an inventory of your company’s intellectual property (IP) assets? Do you even know what is considered an Intellectual Property asset? Intellectual Property is everywhere in the world of business and business owners should make sure they protect their assets since intellectual property is crucial to the success of their business.
Types of IP assets:
Trademarks are brands, logos, service marks, collective marks, and trade names;
Copyrights protect the expression of ideas – software code, websites, curriculum, how-to-manuals, paintings, books, sculpture, audio and visual recordings, musical and dramatic works.
Patents are for the protection of technical and functional inventions of products and processes that are new and not obvious.
Trade Secrets - all forms and types of financial, business, scientific, technical, economic, or engineering information if the owner has taken reasonable measures to keep them secret and the information derives independent economic value from not being generally known.
Actions you should take:
Conduct an audit to identify all registered and unregistered trademarks and copyrights. Include all patent registrations and inventions that you intend to patent or keep as a trade secret.
Invest in well written and up to date non-disclosure agreements. Make sure all of your employment and vendor agreements, licensing agreements, sales contracts and technology transfer agreements protect your IP assets.
File trademark applications for all unregistered word marks, service marks, logos, collective marks and trade names.
File copyright applications for materials you have developed such as your websites, software code, curriculum, how-to-manuals, logos that you are using, graphics that you are using to promote products and services, etc.
File patent applications before you publish a new invention. Once you disclose publicly an invention you must file an application within one year or you lose the right to obtain a patent registration.
If you decide you want to keep an invention, process or formula as a trade secret instead of filing for a patent, make sure you actively take reasonable measure to keep the information secret.
Save money in the long run by working with an IP lawyer who can advise you on trademark, copyright and patent registrations, review your business agreements and contracts for the protection of all IP assets. Sometimes what appears to be simple at first turns out to be more complex than you originally considered. A trademark or patent application can be rejected for small details that were not included in the original application.
Consider the future of your company:
Properly protected IP assets add value to your company if you intend to sell it in the future.
If your IP assets are protected you are in a better position to protect your company and brands from copycats who infringe on your brands and ideas.
You may decide you would like to license your brand or products to a third party as you expand your business. So you will want to make sure the brand is registered and the products properly protected.
You may expand your sales of products or services to other countries in which case having US trademark registrations in place will help in the trademark application process in with other countries.
Better to act now in protecting your valuable IP assets instead of waiting until it is too late when someone takes your brand, product or client list and opens their own business.
Crystal Broughan is an intellectual property law attorney with Marks Gray, P.A. If you would like to learn more about Marks Gray’s intellectual property law services please contact Ms. Broughan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 904-807-2180.