Intellectual Property Law: 4 Ways to Protect Your Company’s Products and Ideas

You may not know it, but your business is a treasure trove of hidden assets: intellectual property. IP lurks in all corners from the ad copy in your sales brochures to the photographs on your websites to the secret recipe for your famous spices. And, like any asset, intellectual property needs to be protected and maintained for it to retain its value to the business. The following are four key ways you can protect your business’ intellectual property assets.

1) Make it Official: Go Get it Registered

A good portion of your intellectual property can be registered, both at the state and federal levels. For example, in the state of Colorado, trademarks and service marks can be registered with the Colorado Secretary of State for a renewable term of five years, and other states have similar authorities to help protect your IP at the state level. Of course, trademarks and service marks can be registered at the federal level as well, which garners national protection and access to the federal courts for litigation of infringement. Copyrights and patents are also registrable, but only at the federal level.

2) If It’s a Secret, Treat it Like a Secret

Some intellectual property, however, should not be registered. The recipe for your spices, while possibly eligible for copyright protection, should probably not be registered for copyright because this requires that a deposit copy of the recipe be given to the Library of Congress. What to do? First, you internally classify the recipe as a secret. You let everyone know that it is a secret, of course without telling them what the secret is. Second, you restrict access to the secret to only those who need to know and can be trusted. Third, even then, you make those individuals sign non-disclosure agreements which penalize them severely if they divulge the secret. Finally, treat the secret like it’s a secret from the start. Once the cat is out of the bag, it is nearly impossible to get it back in.

3) Get Your Rights Right.

You are talented in many areas, but sometimes you do need to call in extra help. Maybe you hired a famous photographer to take amazing photos of your new widget and then hired someone to write the sales copy. The photographs that the person takes for you and the sales copy that is written for you is intellectual property, but even though you’ve paid for it, it may not necessarily belong to you. This can be a real issue down the road when you decide to sue someone for using your beautiful photographs to sell their widget. The best way to handle this is to get the rights from the contractor up front. It is not enough to have paid for the service. You should have them assign to you their rights in writing at the time of the transaction. This way, the work and the rights in the work belong to you.

4) Be Aware: IP is lurking everywhere!

Intellectual property covers an immense number of various disciplines and work product. Copyrights cover most anything artistic or creative from writing to jingles to software. Trademarks are your brand. Patents are your breakthrough invention. Trade secrets are your confidential client list. In other words, intellectual property that should be protected exists in all areas of your business and it is critical to keep this in mind as you create these items.

BRADFORD, LTD is happy and ready to assist you with these necessary steps to help you identify and protect your intellectual property. Give us a call today at 303.325.5467 to learn how we can help!

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Bradford LTD specializes in IP protections and maximization for startups and small businesses. We also provide scaled legal services to our clients, including fractional legal counsel and value-based rates. From trademark, copyright and service mark protections to patent protection and outside inside counsel, we help position entrepreneurs and owners for long-term success.

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