Patents, trademarks and copyrights are all intangible assets of intellectual creation that fall under the umbrella of Intellectual Property (IP). IP is often a business’ most valuable asset because IP assets are what differentiate your business from a competitor’s. Without properly protecting your IP, it’s possible a competitor can use your hard work to gain their own advantage. Having a proper IP strategy can reduce this risk and offer you a means of preventing your competitors from using the efforts of your own innovation.
Trademarks: Protect Who You Are
Trademark protection is about protecting the reputation you’ve built with your consumers. Your business’ name, logo and the names of your products and services, are all trademarks that are important
in building a well-recognized brand that consumers associate with quality goods and services. Federal trademark protection provides the most expansive rights and, without it, you risk others using your name in markets where you aren’t currently operating. This can severely limit your ability to grow into those markets in the future.
Patents: Protect What You Make
A patent owner has the right to exclude others from making, using or selling a patented invention. Utility patents protect the functional aspect of an invention, while a design patent protects ornamental features.
Utility patents can be leveraged by startups to protect the functional components of a product or even a novel process, including methods carried out by software to solve specific issues. Design patents can protect user interfaces or ornamental design features of an invention. The ability to exclude competitors from offering software, for example, that performs the same function or from designing an interface that looks like yours can yield big returns if there is demand for what you offer.
Copyrights: Protect How You Express
Copyrights can protect the creative components of your business or products, such as the written and visual content on your website, promotional materials and even your source code. A copyright owner has the exclusive rights to reproduce and make copies of the protected material and, while registration is not required, there are additional benefits of having a copyright registration, including the right to sue for copyright infringement.
As you can see, different IP is relevant to different parts of your business, and it’s more important than ever to effectively manage your IP portfolio. IP is truly the backbone of many new businesses, and a failure to protect that IP might be fatal to your success. By protecting your IP and proactively addressing potential IP ownership issues, you can eliminate that threat in the early stages of your business.