While the subject of IP law is often met with hesitancy or even disdain by business owners for fear of its complexities and their risk to having their ideas being stolen without being able to prevent it, understanding these laws in order to better protect your business is not actually as hard as many business owners make it out to be.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking this topic doesn’t apply to you either. If you are successful in business long enough, the chances are someone is going to try to steal your ideas. If you aren’t properly prepared before something like this happens, the consequences to your business could be utterly devastating.
So let’s get started right here and now by going over some of the basic things every business owner should know about intellectual property law in order to better protect themselves from the theft of their intellectual properties.
To start, the legal language of intellectual property law requires understanding a few terms:
· Trademark: A trademark is any design that is tied to or identifies a specific product.
· Copyright: A legal claim of creative ownership to protect those who produce books, music, art, etc.
· Patent: A group of limited-time rights granted, in the US, by the US Patent and Trademark Office. These are given to inventors or assignees of inventions to protect it from being copied without consent.
· Service Mark: This is a specific kind of trademark that service providers use to identify themselves.
· Collective Membership Mark: Such a mark is an indicator of membership in a particular organization.
So what actually constitutes “intellectual property?”
The first step as a business owner is to take stock of the intellectual property you already have. Due to the rapidly changing nature of technology and our dependence upon it, the definition of intellectual property has also evolved rapidly prompting the need for businesses to assess or reassess their stock of intellectual properties and the patents, copyrights, or trademarks they need to protect themselves.
Here are common examples of intellectual properties any business needs to protect:
· Company Name and Logo: Brand recognition is huge and your name and logo are essential to this. They must be protected.
· Your Company Website and URL: While such things were unimaginable as IP even 25 years ago, they are some of the most essential things businesses should protect today.
· Proprietary Technology and Software: Attaining patents for any technology or software your company develops is an essential step of protecting your intellectual property.
· Think Globally: Traditionally, businesses only had to adhere to one nation’s set of laws about intellectual property rights. If your business is international or thinking about going international do the research to protect your IPs on a global scale.
While some parts of intellectual property law have been around for hundreds of years, the dramatic evolution in technology and business over the past quarter of a century has redefined how such traditional pieces of IP law are seen and utilized to protect business assets. Keeping up with current IP trends, therefore, is essential as well.
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