When you are an entrepreneur launching your own business, you likely have more than a couple of unique ideas that will separate your business from the rest. Those could include ideas for a specific product design or production process, a cool company logo or slogan, or a secret recipe you wouldn’t want your competitors to use.
You need to protect your ideas if you want your business to succeed. You can protect your business intellectual property in four ways:
- Securing a patent for an invention or design feature of your product.
- Before applying for a patent, you should do some research. You likely will need someone with experience in preliminary patent research to help you. You want to make sure no one else has patented an idea the same as yours.
- You also should have a close-to-final design for your product. It can be difficult to change design aspects once you’ve filed for a patent.
- Obtaining a trademark for your product’s name brand, its logo or your company logo or advertising slogan.
- Again, you’ll need to conduct some research to make sure what you want to trademark isn’t nearly identical to something that already has a trademark.
- You want to consider how strong you want a trademark to be. Should you seek an arbitrary or suggestive trademark (stronger) or a descriptive or generic one (weaker)?
- Once you receive your trademark, make sure to use the trademark symbol as much as possible, to show you haven’t waived your rights to use it.
- Securing a copyright to protect your company website, a commercial, photographs or a creative written work, such as a song, movie script or book manuscript.
- Protecting your trade secrets. A trade secret could be a secret recipe, your company customer list, sales materials or innovative production method.
- Trade secrets are best protected by limiting the number of people who know them and letting those employees know they are trade secrets.
- You also can have employees who know trade secrets sign nondisclosure agreements to not reveal them.
Protecting your business intellectual property isn’t an easy process. It’s always better to work with an experienced intellectual property attorney, so you have the best chance of securing the protection you need. You’ll also need to work with an attorney if you feel someone has infringed your intellectual property and you need to enforce your patent, trademark, copyright or protected trade secret.