Two Alternatives to Formal IP Registration

The advantages of registering intellectual property are unquestionable and evident to every entrepreneur who worked hard to create a successful product or design. However, most IP protection tools – such as patents or trademarks – are also undeniably costly. For example, fees for filing and processing a patent may add up to at least $500. Initial costs for trademark registration, while generally lower, may still entail an expense of a few hundred dollars. Many fledgling entrepreneurs and startup companies may find it challenging to fit such expenses in their already tight budgets.

At the same time, however, taking no action to protect intellectual property may be even costlier in the long run. Without any legal protection in place, a lucrative design or service can be an easy target for copycats and counterfeiters. Additionally, without registered IP rights, you may have very little legal leverage, if any, to effectively combat such dishonest competitors.

How, then, can business owners and entrepreneurs keep their products and design protected while running on a tight budget? While obtaining specialized IP protections – like trademarks and patents – should always be your goal in the long run, you may need to use some alternative to registering IP in the beginning. In this article, we will explore two potential options.

Trade Secrets

Did you know that Google never actually patented its famous, multi-million dollar-making search algorithm? The Coca-Cola Company didn’t file a patent for their world-famous drink’s recipe, either. Instead, both of these lucrative inventions are kept and protected by law as trade secrets.

A trade secret is defined as intellectual property related to a business or profession that is kept secret and has value. It is a broad category that can include designs, information, innovations, physical devices and so on. As long as you take appropriate measures to protect such intellectual property from being disclosed or mishandled, a trade secret is protected by the law. If a competitor obtains any of your trade secrets by dishonest or illegal means, you can enforce these protections through litigation and other legal means.

Using a Trademark Without Registration

You don’t have to register a trademark to take advantage of some of the protections this legal tool can offer. In fact, by using a trademark in commerce, you’re already acquiring trademark rights that you can defend legally in case of infringement. In the US, such rights are given to an entity who first started using a given trademark, not the one that was first to register it.

However, without registration, the burden of proof in any legal dispute over the rights to use a trademark falls on the trademark owner rather than on the defendant. Therefore, in order to be able to defend your trademark, you need to gather evidence of its use as well as its geographic reach. It is important to note that unregistered trademarks are only protected within the trademark owner’s trading area.

If you have any other questions with regards to effective ways of protecting your company’s intellectual property – with or without registration – do not hesitate to reach to our legal team at BRADFORD, LTD. Our experienced lawyers will help you obtain and enforce your IP rights within the U.S. and around the world.

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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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