Simple Ways to Protect Your Intellectual Property
Your most valuable asset as a business owner is most likely your business itself. Among the assets that your business owns, one of the most important assets (next to and yet associated with goodwill) is your company’s intellectual property. What exactly does “intellectual property” (IP) mean? Broad categories of assets can be included on this term, including copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets, patents and business names. Ask yourself, if my competitor or anyone else in my industry were to find out this information, what would be the detriment to me and my company?
Among the assets that your business owns, one of the most important assets (next to and yet associated with goodwill) is your company’s intellectual property.
Here’s a worst case scenario that you do NOT want to happen to you: let’s imagine that you have built a stellar brand name with an excellent reputation (all over the world, thanks to the reaches of the Internet) over the past 10+ years, but you did NOTHING to protect your rights in that brand. In other words, you sat on your IP rights. So your competitor comes along, beats you to the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, then you have to spend TENS OF THOUSANDS (or even HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS) OF DOLLARS trying to oppose their application or cancel their mark (after the fact) because they were proactive about stealing your ideas and stealing your brand name, because it was unprotected and openly vulnerable. That is NOT how you want to run your business, so PLEASE BE PROACTIVE about protecting the amazing products and services that you offer!
Following are some simple ways that you can protect your extremely valuable intellectual property:
- Business Name – if you have a unique business name, you should have already registered it at the California Secretary of State. But if it is not the original name of your corporation, then you should have at least filed a Fictitious Business Name Statement in the country where you are doing business, to let the public know that you have a DBA (you are “doing business as” another name). For example, Jane Smith owns a company called “XYZ Corporation dba Jane’s Hair Accessories”
- Product Names – you should consider whether to register trademarks for your product names, especially if they are getting publicized and increasing in public recognition of those names. In the meantime, before you actually register, please used the superscripted letters, “™” next to any unique product name that you consider a brand name, a name that distinguishes your product from that of your competitors.
- Service Names – if you have a unique service you are offering to your customers, and the name captures it all, then the above principle for Product Names applies as well.
- Trade Secrets – if you have a special way of doing something, of making a product or performing a service, then rather than filing for a patent (because it’s an invention), you should more than likely keep it confidential as a trade secret. In order to keep it a trade secret, you should not let all of your employees know, and you should mark information with the word “Confidential” or “Confidential and Proprietary Information”, so that you can demonstrate that you are making a reasonable effort to keep this information secret.
- Written Materials – anytime you write either a promotional ad, blog, post an article that you wrote, training manuals or even a product description online, you may want to use the copyright symbol “©” to indicate to the public that you are claiming that this is an original work and you are the author.
If you have any questions or doubts about whether you are taking the right steps to protect your intellectual property, please consult with the Law Offices of Gahram Kang, a PLC, and let us help you relieve those doubts.
Gahram Kang, Attorney at Law