Unique intellectual property (IP) can help set your business apart from the competition. Whether a new machine for making a product, a new process, or a new product itself, business leaders must take steps to protect this IP or else competitors could steal the idea and use it for their own gain. Three of the most common examples to consider here in the United States include:
- Copyright. Inventors can protect items like literary work, computer programs and architectural works through copyright. Copyright is present at the time of creation, but the creator is more likely to find success defending copyright if it is registered with the U.S. Copyright Office.
- Trademark. Trademarks can offer protection over a products’ identity. Having the name trademarked can help reduce the risk of knockoffs.
- Patents. These protections are particularly beneficial for machines and processes.
Putting the protection in place is the first step. Those who hold these protections must also act to enforce their rights in the event of a violation. This could begin with a cease and desist letter and possible escalate to litigation, if necessary.
Although it is beneficial to avoid over-sharing the information behind the IP, it is not always realistic. Success may mean expansion or otherwise sharing information to help your business grow. In these cases, it is important to have non-disclosure documents in place. These contractual agreements offer an additional layer of protection, allowing you to expand your business and share the IP needed to make expansion successful while better ensuring the secrets that help your business succeed within the marketplace remain yours to keep.