As the internet gets bigger and faster each day, valuable intellectual property becomes increasingly accessible. This makes it easier to find information about virtually any topic easier but much harder to protect your intellectual property from theft. Whether you are a start-up business or an established company, understanding how to protect your intellectual property rights is crucial to your continued success.
In this post, our experienced Hunnicutt Law Group team explains some of the basics of how to protect intellectual property in a fast-changing online environment. We will also discuss some of the offline ways intellectual property theft occurs and how you can protect yourself and your business from falling prey to bad actors.
What Is Intellectual Property?
You may have heard the term “intellectual property” many times before, but what is IP? Intellectual property is a work produced from an original thought. Some common examples of IP are artwork, logos, website content, manuscripts, software code, recipes, inventions, company names, product names, formulas, or other original information that benefits your business.
When you come up with your million-dollar idea, it’s essential to protect it so that no one can use it without your permission. Fortunately, intellectual property rights are protected under a number of federal and state laws.
Why Is It Important to Protect Intellectual Property?
Owning and protecting IP is different from owning a real property asset, like a house. If someone trespasses on your land, you can chase them off. If someone infringes on your intellectual property rights, you need to know how to protect intellectual property before you can even begin asserting your rights over your own ideas. Because intellectual property rights are intangible assets, others can steal your IP rights more stealthily and efficiently. Unlike an interloper on your property, where your dog will bark as soon as he hears footsteps, your schematics, documents, slogans, and website code might be long gone before you ever notice the intruder.
Worse, an infringer can use your work for their own financial gain by employing your intellectual property to build their own business and reputation at the expense of yours. Alternatively, they could damage your name or your business’ name, causing other financial hardships.
Ways to Protect Intellectual Property
You do not have to be a victim. You can protect yourself and your business’s ideas by following the steps below and speaking with an experienced intellectual property lawyer if you do become the victim of IP theft.
Keep Trade Secrets a Secret
Until you have adequately secured your intellectual property, like obtaining a patent or trademark, avoid talking about your work with others. Even if you are seeking funding, do not promote your idea in public forums like Gofundme or Kickstarter until you have adequately protected your IP.
Remember, keeping a secret means keeping a secret. Well-meaning, proud partners and parents have countless times spilled trade secrets on Facebook or other social media platforms. While this may result in a lot of “likes” for themselves, it usually means immediate intellectual property theft for the would-be inventor.
Register All of Your IP
There are four different types of intellectual property rights you can protect. These include:
- Trademarks, and
- Trade secrets
Of these, you can register copyrights, patents, and trademarks with both federal and state patent authorities. At the federal level, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) handles most intellectual property registrations. You can even use the tools on their website to conduct a search to confirm that your idea is unique and has never been registered before.
The team at Hunnicutt Law Group is experienced in helping entrepreneurs and individuals protect their intellectual property by enforcing their rights in court. Additionally, we have significant experience those who have been accused in infringing upon the IP rights of others.
Document Your Work
One of the best ways to protect intellectual property is to maintain detailed drawings, descriptions, plans, and records that prove that you came up with an idea and when you came up with it. This type of proof is beneficial for intellectual property infringement and enforcement cases, where someone challenges you as the rightful owner of your trademarks and copyrights.
An experienced intellectual property lawyer can help you determine what kinds of drawings will be required in the event of an enforcement action.
Use Appropriate Legal Agreements
Do not be afraid to restrict access to your ideas to people who have signed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) with you. Often, inventors and business people feel obligated to share their best ideas with people for free. Even if you are just starting out in business, you should know that your ideas have value and can ultimately prove to be the most valuable part of your business. Asking potential partners or counterparties to sign an NDA before you allow them to review trade secrets or inventions not yet protected by a patent is just good sense.
How Hunnicutt Law Group Can Help
If you have a trademark infringement case, an attorney can help you find ways to protect your intellectual property. Founder Stephen Hunnicutt brings over 30 years of legal experience to his clients, providing zealous advocacy and personal attention.
At Hunnicutt Law Group, we believe in providing our clients with small firm attention but big firm results. For us, that means not only winning cases and negotiating the right deals but also helping folks to understand what their rights are and why our suggested course of action can yield the best result. Call or contact us online today to discuss how we can help you protect your intellectual property. We also offer videoconferencing.