Every small business owner knows that time and money are important assets. But how many consider the value of their intellectual property? How many small businesses even consider that they own any intellectual property?
Sadly, too few small business owners have ever consulted an attorney about their IP assets. Often as not, those that DO consider their IP as assets don't believe they can afford to work with expensive lawyers or to get involved in costly lawsuits. Yet, small businesses are most at risk from theft of these valuable elements. Where larger companies may be able to sustain the lost value of an asset, small businesses cannot.
The good news is that, most of the time, protecting intellectual property can be very cost-effective. Even lawyers' fees may seem surprisingly modest, especially when you consider what's at stake.
So how do you protect your small business intellectual property?
While most many small businesses don’t have products or processes that can be patented, it's unwise to simply assume this is the case for your business. Patents, when properly protecgted can open doors to their owners in terms of licensing and cross-licensing while closing doors to competitors, and protect your company’s competitive advantage.
Trademark protection is a way to protect your business. Since a brand, name or logo can have tremendous value over the life of your business, isn't it wise to consider registering and protecting yours? A strong trademark could well be the foundation of a product or service line. The advice of a qualified and experienced attorney can help you when selecting brands, too. All too often, business owners come to me looking to register the trademark for a brand they adopted a few years earlier, only to learn that some other business has already claimed protection for a similar or identical brand. Web searching can provide some useful competitive intelligence in this area, but there's no substitute for a comprehensive trademark search.
Copyright law gives preserves to the author of a work the exclusive right to play, print, publish, or perform a piece of material or content. If you have posted photos of your goods, how-to articles, blogs, or video tutorials on your businesses website (and you should), you have copyrights worth protecting. It's gotten so easy to share this kind of thing that unwary business owners may lose control of these important assets. Protecting your sold products and services from Internet piracy through copyright is an important component of every business' asset protection plan.
Do you have a customer list? Vendor List? Proprietary pricing or manufacturing information? If so, you have assets that need to be kept out of the hands of your competitors. What happens when an employee leaves? What if that former employee goes to work for a competitor, or becomes your competitor? Clear policies and rock-solid confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements are the best approach to protecting these assets.
The foregoing are just a few examples of how small businesses can maximize the value of their investments in intellectual property. Even if your business isn't in the entertainment field, we can help your business perform an intellectual property audit, and get a protection scheme into place quickly.
Call us for a free, initial consultation.