What Entrepreneurs Need to Know About Intellectual Property
As a young entrepreneur, your ideas are your business–literally. Entrepreneurs get great ideas and create companies based on them. It’s therefore vital that you know the ins and outs of intellectual property, in order to protect both your creative ideas and your business. Here are some of the basics you should know about intellectual property, aka IP.
Intellectual Property 101
Patents, Copyrights, and Trademarks
U.S. law offers three main ways to protect your ideas. Patents protect your unique product ideas. Copyrights protect writing and other recorded creative expression. Trademarks protect symbols and names. As soon as you settle on your unique company name or come up with a new product design, file for patent or trademark protection. Patents and trademark protection are first-come, first-served so you should get your place in the pending approval line as soon as possible.
Before you file, though, do some research. Find out whether someone else has already trademarked the name, or something close to it. See if another product similar to yours is already patented. A big part of the value of intellectual property is its uniqueness and your own ideas will benefit by researching what’s already been done.
Copyright protection works a bit differently. As soon as you create something, say a novel, screenplay, photograph or other creative expression, it’s automatically protected by copyright law. You don’t actually even need the copyright symbol.
However, you gain some advantages by registering your creative work for copyright protection. If legal questions about your work arise, they are much easier to resolve if you’ve registered your copyright. Although could win a copyright infringement case without it, registration makes all aspects of protecting your work, from finding an attorney to proving your ownership, easier and faster.
Other Ways to Protect Your Intellectual Property
There are couple of further ways to protect the ideas powering your start-up. Also familiarize yourself with Non-Disclosure Agreements and IP Insurance.
Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs)
Non-disclosure agreements, or NDAs, protect your company’s sensitive information. Arrange to get NDAs written as soon as you establish your company and start working with other people. Once you share your unique ideas with others, you need to make sure they won’t communicate that information to the wrong people. Or use it in any of their own future endeavors.
Obtaining a solid NDA usually means finding find a good IP attorney. They will also be able to help you navigate purchasing IP insurance, and filing for trademark and patent protection.
Once you establish your business, look into Intellectual Property Insurance. An IP insurance policy will protect you from a host of IP challenges. For example, if someone challenges your patent, or if they infringe on your trademark, your IP insurance company’s attorneys will be able to handle these troubles. Further, infringement litigation costs add up fast, and IP insurance will help defray them.
Remember, your unique, creative ideas are the foundation of your entrepreneurial efforts and one of the first things you need to do is look into how best to protect them!
IMAGE: Pixabay / CC0 Public Domain