For many small and medium-sized businesses, intellectual property is one of the most valuable assets. Unfortunately, it is also often one of the most vulnerable assets, especially when left unprotected.
Learn more about the common legal strategies you can use to protect your company’s IP and preserve its value.
You can seek copyright protection for original works of expression. For example, copyright coverage is appropriate for books, songs, films, paintings and other unique creations. Although this type of expression receives automatic protection as soon as you create it, you must register for federal copyright protection to obtain the right to sue if a third party infringes on your original work.
Trademark protection applies to a logo, word, phrase or identifying mark that distinguishes your company from its competitors. Although you establish your ownership of a specific trademark by using it to identify your business in the marketplace, you can access enhanced protection as well as the right to sue to protect your mark by registering it through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
If your business has created a unique invention, patent protection prevents third parties from making, using, selling or importing your creation for a specified time period (usually 20 years). To qualify for a patent, you must confirm that nothing similar to your invention already exists and prove that it has a specific use that would not be immediately obvious to another person who has familiarity with your field.
This term describes components of your company’s success that another firm could replicate and steal. Examples include processes, strategies and customer lists. If a third party uses your trade secrets to profit, you can seek legal damages.
An IP attorney can provide advice about whether your company’s IP requires trademark, patent, copyright or trade secret protection. He or she can also assist with nondisclosure agreements and other internal strategies to shield your valuable ideas and creations.