by Kelley Keller | Featured Contributor
Every business has intellectual property. Your brand name, your online content, and your logo are just a few examples of tangible and intangible intellectual property that you could make money from now or in the future.
In simplest terms, intellectual property refers to products of the human mind and imagination. It has value (or potential value) in the marketplace and you’re entitled to exclusive legal rights to it because it gives you a competitive advantage in business.
If you lose your intellectual property, it could harm your business, your brand, and your bottom-line. Think of it this way. It’s a lot easier (and often a lot less expensive) to replace physical property that is lost or stolen than it is to replace intellectual property. Therefore, it is absolutely critical that you identify, protect, monitor and enforce your intellectual property and your intellectual property rights at all times.
The 4 Types of Intellectual Property
There are four types of intellectual property and your business already has (or could have) one or more of them:
- Trademarks: Protect forms of trade identity like brand names, logos and slogans.
- Copyrights: Protect tangible expressions of original ideas such as ebooks, training courses, speeches, photos and videos.
- Patents: Protect new and useful inventions.
- Trade Secrets: Protect proprietary technical, business and financial information that only has value if it’s kept secret.
Your Intellectual Property Has Value
At the most basic level, every business has intellectual property because every business has a name. Once that name is used in the marketplace, it shifts from just being a trade name to a brand name. It becomes a form of intellectual property that can gain value and should be protected.
Here are five signs that you have valuable intellectual property that you should not only identify but also protect and enforce to ensure it retains its monetary value and continues to give you a competitive advantage for many years to come.
1. You Own a Blog
Do your blog posts include your original content? If so, you could repurpose them for profit. For example, you could turn a series of blog posts into an ebook or a training course which you could sell.
Even if you’re not directly earning revenue from your blog content today, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have potential value that you could benefit from in the future. If you don’t take the steps to protect your creative work with copyrights today, it will be a lot harder to stop others from taking your content and making money from it in the future.
2. You Have a Well-Known Brand (or You’re Building One)
Every brand has value (if it’s already well-known) or potential value (if it’s in the marketplace, it will grow in value as it becomes more recognizable). Therefore, every brand should be trademarked.
This includes doing a comprehensive trademark search to ensure your brand doesn’t conflict with any similar marks that are already being used to represent similar products or services in a similar industry. No business should ever skip this critical step! I’ve seen the disastrous results to businesses that skip this step too many times!
3. You Created Something Original
If you create anything original and fix it in a tangible medium, you can copyright it. If you write an ebook, create a video, take photographs, record an audio presentation, deliver a seminar, record music, or write a speech, you’ve created something original that can be copyrighted. If someone else creates something original for you, make sure you own the copyright to it by having them sign a work made for hire agreement.
As soon as your original work is fixed in a tangible medium, you have copyright rights to it. However, if someone steals your original work and uses it or sells it as their own, you can’t take them to court or collect fines and damages unless you have a federal copyright registration to that work. Bottom-line, register your original works so you can protect them to the fullest extent.
4. You Invented Something New
Did you invent something new and useful? You need to patent it so only you can reap the financial rewards of your innovation. Others will try to copy your invention and profit from it, so invest the time and money into protecting it today. A patent gives you an exclusive and limited monopoly over your invention. Don’t give it up!
5. You Use Special Processes or Techniques to Develop or Deliver Your Product or Services
If you created an original process or technique that is your business’ secret sauce, make sure you have everything in place to keep that secret sauce a secret. If that process or technique gives your business a competitive advantage (or could in the future), make sure you have the right agreements (including non-disclosure agreements), policies, and security in place to limit access and reduce the risk of exposure or theft.
Even if your intellectual property doesn’t seem to have value today, it has potential value. It can give you a competitive advantage in the marketplace today or in the future. It could enable you to charge higher prices, sell more products, enter new markets, attract investors, and more.
However, your intellectual property loses all of its value if you don’t protect and enforce it, so take the time and invest the money today to protect it the right way. Secure your trademarks, copyrights, patents and trade secrets so only you can benefit and profit from your innovation and creativity for many years to come.
Kelley Keller, Esq. is President of Circle Legal and a 20-year veteran of the intellectual property law field. As an intellectual property attorney, she has deep experience helping businesses of all sizes identify, manage, and protect their trademarks, copyrights, patents, and trade secrets, including many household brands like Toyota, Disney, and Verizon, which she worked with during her tenure at one of the largest IP law firms in Washington, D.C. At Circle Legal, she focuses on redesigning the legal experience for innovative companies, business owners, and their families by providing comprehensive services that build solid legal, insurance, finance, and tax foundations for her clients (their LIFT Foundations).
Kelley’s personable nature and ability to explain complex legal issues in simple terms set her apart from most attorneys. She is relentless in helping businesses, their owners, and their families mitigate risks and open the doors to new opportunities. You can hear her helping business owners every week on the Circle Legal Business Fix-It Show broadcasting on iHeartRadio.
You can find Kelley on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+ and download her free ebook, 41 Steps to Start a Business and Build Wealth the Right Way.