Intellectual Property (IP) comprises a series of legal ownership claims that include trademarks, copyrights, patents, trade secrets and industrial design rights. Small businesses or startups focus less on IP and consequently involve in lawyers in expensive legal issues. This article shares useful tips to help entrepreneurs guard their ideas and IP policy.
Tip#1: Solemnize Ownership Agreement
A precise agreement formalizing the ownership amongst the people involved in the business should be made. The agreement should clearly state the business owner/s and how the dividends created by IP will be shared among the founders; upon company’s expansion or merger.
Tip#2: Spend Wisely on Patent Filing
Patent expenses should be focused on strategic IP protection because patent filing is expensive. Sensitive business ideas and core patentable schemes should be revealed to a selected few who have agreed to sign a Non Disclosure Agreement (NDA). Consult a legal professional and opt for a provisional patent application first with the U.S Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is an intelligent way for creating temporary IP protection.
Tip#3: Protect Writing Materials
To protect manual, guide, documents and publicity material from infringement, U.S. law supports copyright notices since 1989. Therefore, to avoid legal hassles in the future, ensure that your company stamps all the materials with the copyright symbol or the word “copyright” and the year of creation and first publication.
Keep absolute ownership of the content published on your company’s website, promotional materials, logos, and important documents with your firm by making a written control contract with your marketing partners or hired vendors. For the legal protection of your critical business data and marketing materials you should obtain a copyright registration from state’s legal office.
Tip#4: Protect Your Brand
Trademark registration is the only way to keep your brand safe. Subsequently, conduct a clearance search on the trademark idea you have before branding it as yours. In your research you must find out, if your choicest trademark exists or not. How? Seek assistance from seasoned clearance companies or browse the search engines, trademark databases and web domain registry. Please note, U.S. acknowledges common law trademark rights, i.e. a legal action can be taken against a trademark in use but not registered. Although registration of the trademark is not mandatory, but this law enhances the legal protections to the trademark holder.
Even if your trademark registration is pending, you should trademark the promotional and other materials with the letters TM, and for products or services the letter SM. Once your trademark is registered, you can use the ® symbol indicating a registered trademark.
Tip#5: Protect Your Domain Name & Social Media
Prevent domain name disputes, stolen identity, and cyber-squatting by gaining exclusive rights to your domain name via registration. Social networks such as Twitter has a policy against selling username and name squatting. If you fail to pay heed, someone can cause a serious damage to your company’s reputation.
With these pointers in mind on copyrights, patents and trademarks protection, you are on your way to be the next bright star in the digital business.