by Kelley Keller
Your business has intellectual property, and if you’re not protecting it, your entire business is at risk. But how do you know when it’s the right time to take the actual steps, contact an intellectual property attorney, and set the process in motion to secure your rights and protect your intellectual property?
There are three key signs that you’re ready to protect your intellectual property. Each is discussed below. If your business has shown any of these signs already, then you need to take action and protect your intellectual property as soon as possible.
Sign #1: Your Intellectual Property Has Commercial Value
Intellectual property law supports our country’s economy by giving businesses opportunities to build competitive advantages in the form of the exclusive use of trademarks, copyrights, patents, and trade secrets. If your innovation, idea, and intelligence—collectively, your intellectual property—have commercial value (meaning they can drive an income for your business if they’re offered for sale), then you should protect them ASAP!
For example, your company’s logo promises a certain level of quality to consumers. That logo might help you charge premium prices or secure the best shelf space in retail stores. Imagine what would happen if another company started using the same logo to sell similar products or services. The result would be consumer confusion in the marketplace.
If you had secured your trademark, you could enforce your intellectual property rights and stop the competitor from using the same logo on its products.
Sign #2: Your Intellectual Property Gives Your Business a Competitive Advantage
Has your intellectual property already moved beyond the point of having commercial value? Has it already provided you with the competitive advantage discussed in #1 above? If so, then you need to protect that advantage because it motivates consumers to choose your brand, products, and services over others in the marketplace.
For example, if you sell a new health snack with a secret recipe, that recipe is a valuable trade secret that gives you a significant advantage over your competitors in the marketplace. If someone stole that recipe and began making the same product, you’d lose your competitive advantage and your business would suffer.
If you had taken the time to describe and properly protect that recipe as a trade secret, you could enforce your intellectual property rights and stop the competitor from making a product using your recipe.
Sign #3: You’re Prepared to Enforce Your Intellectual Property Rights
It makes little sense to secure your intellectual property if you have no intention of enforcing your rights as the registered owner. However, if your intellectual property is valuable enough for you to invest time and money into enforcing your rights under the law in the future, then you should protect that intellectual property as soon as possible. Every day you wait is another day you’re leaving your business open to threats and risks.
For example, if you create a song, photograph, work of art, film, book, or any other tangible expression of your ideas, you own the copyright to that creative work (assuming you haven’t given up your rights through a work-for-hire agreement or employer-employee relationship). If another person or business starts selling your song, photograph, or other creative work and making money from it, you can enforce your rights under copyright law and stop that person.
However, you need to register your copyright in order to bring legal action against an infringer or collect fines. Bottom-line, if you don’t enforce your rights, you might risk losing those rights.
Intellectual property rights give you the right to exclude others from using and profiting from your creative works. It’s up to you to take the initiative to secure, protect, and enforce those rights. Inaction equates to giving up your rights, which would be one of the worst strategic business decisions you could possibly make.