Every business owns some sort of Intellectual Property.
The IP of a business is sometimes its most important asset. It is important that business owners ensure they are protected.
When should Business Owners Protect their Idea?
Protect early. Protect creatively. Once you are ready to implement a product/service idea (Incorporate, obtain licenses and permits, collaborate etc).
Types of Intellectual Property
Businesses need to secure one or more of the four different types of Intellectual Property (IP).
Trademarks protect brands and distinguish one brand from another. A trademark can be a letter, number, word, phrase, sound, smell, shape, logo, picture and/or an aspect of packaging. To be eligible for a Trademark, you must have a clear representation of the mark, as well as identification of the class of goods and services to which the mark would apply.
Copyrights protect original works that are fixed in a tangible medium of expression. This means that the authored or creative work has been written down on a piece of paper, saved on an electronic storage device (e.g. hard drive or flash drive), or preserved in some other tangible format. Copyright is commonly applied to music, sound, recordings, art, books, films, and off-line publications.
A Patent grants property rights to inventions. If you invent a product or a process for creating a product, Patents are the appropriate protection. This excludes others from making, selling or using the invention. If your business owns a patent you must protect it by having employees sign acknowledging the company’s ownership. To qualify for Patent Application, the invention must be novel or an improvement to an existing invention.
An Industrial Design is a combination of lines or colors or both and any three-dimensional form. Design rights do not protect the product itself, but it protects the appearance of the product as a result of its shape, colors, texture or materials. Examples of Industrial Designs include floral pattern on a dining plate, 3D designs on t-shirts, tailoring designs, etc.
Intellectual Property Protection and Confidentiality
As a business owner, inventor or creative you would need to discuss your idea, invention or creative work with investors, partners and other businesses. Non-Disclosure Agreements, Cease and Desist Letters, Assignment of IP Agreements are some documents you should have handy.
One-way Confidentiality Agreements are used when one party (business) is sharing information. Non-Disclosure Agreements are used when both parties are sharing information.
Cease and Desist Letters are used when your IP rights have been breached. This serves as a notice to the breaching party using your IP without consent requesting them to immediately discontinue the use of your IP and refrain from doing the same in the future.
Assignment of IP Agreements is used to transfer IP Rights to another party.
Consult an IP Savvy Lawyer.
Monitor your IP.