PROTECT YOUR BUSINESS’S INTELLECT PROPERTY
Intellect property, or IP, might be an intangible asset, but that doesn’t make it any less important than physical property or money in the bank.
It’s what you build your business on, and includes all the knowledge, ideas and processes on which your business is based. As such, it’s vital that small business owners take the necessary steps to protect their IP to prevent other businesses (large or small) from implementing it within their own structures and profiting from it.
Draft a non-disclosure agreement (NDA), also called a confidentiality agreement, to be signed by employees, as well as by all clients, suppliers and any other third parties that your business engages with. A binding legal contract, an NDA sets out information, like material, knowledge, or processes, that must remain confidential. The signatory acknowledges that although this information might be shared with them, they cannot divulge it to anyone else. NDAs are also valuable when one business is contemplating acquiring or merging with another, and therefore needs access to confidential information for the purposes of initial discussions, evaluations, and offers; when two business contemplate a joint venture; and when engineering or manufacturing technical must be shared.
Although an NDA is useful in protecting IP and hold signatories accountable should they breach it, it is important to take steps to prevent unlawful disclosure of IP by monitoring what and how much information you disclose, and with whom you share it.
Copyrights, trademarks and patents
Copyright prevents other businesses or individuals from using your work or IP without first seeking (and obtaining) your permission. It protects you from having your work copied, distributed (whether it’s given away or charged for, and whether it’s given away permanently or lent for any period of time), displayed, adapted, or shared online.
Trademarks prevents other businesses or individuals from replicating any assets or IP, like using a logo, slogan, name or design similar to yours. However, anything offensive or misleading cannot be trademarked. You can also not trademark anything that describes the product or service your business offers (for example, we cannot trademark “Property Law”), or anything that’s too common, like the word coffee. Additionally, assets that look similar to state flags cannot be trademarked.
If your business invents something new, patenting it prevents other businesses or individuals from making, using, selling, and even importing it without your permission. Patents are granted when inventions are a) new, b) involve an “inventive” step or process, and c) can be used within industrial applications.