Imagine waking up one morning and finding out, much to your horror, that your competitor has somehow stolen and replicated your secret business idea and captured the attention of your target market! Or what if you made the mistake of sharing an amazing idea devised by you, only to realize later that you can no longer legally claim it as your brainchild? This is where the importance of protecting your Intellectual Property (IP) rights comes into the picture.
What is Intellectual Property?
If you’re wondering what IP is all about, you’re probably not alone. It is, however, important that you find out before it’s too late.
IP rights are similar to other property rights that protect content (art, symbols, logos, names, images, etc.) creators, innovators, inventors, and owners of products and services from the theft of their creation by others who stand to benefit unlawfully from them.
How Companies Can Protect Their IP
Companies need to focus on the following to protect their IP:
- Developing policies and guidelines that restrict the movement of sensitive company data to personal devices/email addresses by the employees.
- Formulating written agreements with staff that binds them to maintain confidentiality on business matters.
- Devising policies that authorize only specific people from the company to access sensitive company material.
- Creating written agreements and contracts with third-party contractors that prohibit them from accessing and/or revealing confidential data.
- Having stringent IT security protocols in place to restrict random access to company information.
Businesses that underestimate the importance of such protections put themselves at risk of information theft and losing the right to protect sensitive information as a trade secret.
IP is critical because it is protected by law. The legislations that govern it differ according to the country/state/city.
Typically, IP Constitutes the Following:
- Copyrights, which protect a person’s, website’s or firm’s creative work from being plagiarized, duplicated or copied.
- Patents, which encompass not only original and unique products but also procedures. One can apply for international and/or country-specific patents.
- Trademarks, which look after symbols, signs and designs that differentiate the product from that of other companies.
- Registered design, which covers the deeper aspects of the product. For example, fashion houses can use registered design to protect the intricate aspects of their offerings, such as patterns, logos, and so on.
Importance of Intellectual Property Rights
IP rights are critical for a startup’s future. Without them, there’s no telling how hefty a price they will have to pay. The proper implementation of IP, on the other hand, can ensure that a startup is:
Protected against Replication
IP laws shield startups against unauthorized imitation and plagiarism, thereby providing more leverage against competitors who will not be able to steal and use your lucrative ideas. That’s because your ideas will be legally protected. You can seek legal action and compensation if your competitors nick your products without your authorization.
Safe from Thefts
With strong IP laws on your side, your startup will have enhanced protection against thefts. What’s more? This can also ensure that your customers always purchase from a legitimate business entity that advocates their rights. Further, it warrants that you do not get entangled in the web of dealing with phony products in the future.
Appealing to Investors
A company that is known to be protected by IP rights will always be more attractive to smart investors as they know that IP augments the credibility of your startup. This also makes it easy to seek funds.
How to Protect Your Copyrighted Material
Several businesses take IP for granted, which makes IP theft a common phenomenon. You can prevent your business from becoming a victim by taking the following measures to protect your company’s copyrighted material, trademarks, logos, designs, and other intellectual property:
1. Have Policies
Make sure your company establishes a policy that covers all your IP, including:
- Domain names
2. Legal Contracts Can Help
All your agreements and contracts, either with your employees or contractors, need to explain and establish your ownership of all intellectual property developed for you.
3. Start Early
Start the IP process in the early stages of going into business by using patents and trademark searches at the time of developing new products and processes. This will help you determine whether or not they are already protected.
4. Chronicle Your IP
When you’re going into business, maintain a record of evidence that chronicles the progress of your intellectual property. This could be in the form of dated and signed copies of blueprints and drafts.
5. Keep Your Ideas Secret
Remember, it will be too late to file a patent application after you’ve published/released your idea. In such cases, your own disclosures (even with the best intentions) can work against you. Therefore, you need to file a patent application before disclosing anything to anyone who is not bound by secrecy.
6. Keep a Close Watch
Weigh your options and figure out whether or not your new designs really do need to be protected with stronger design registration. This could be for the appearance or any other aspect of the product.
7. Ensure Copyright
If your content/material is already protected by copyright, add the necessary symbol to it. To superimpose this, include your name and creation date along with it.
8. Punish Offenders
It is important to maintain patent and trademark protection by identifying infringements and hunting down offenders to enforce your IP rights. This should deter similar behavior from being repeated in the future.
9. Seek Professional Help
More often than not, startup owners tend to be new to the world of intellectual property. However, any compromise on this front is an invitation to trouble. It is, therefore, recommended to seek professional advice on registration and to protect your intellectual property in the local and international markets.
Often, startups don’t realize the importance of IP rights and laws and fail to devise a proper intellectual property plan, and because of this they end up falling prey to several troubles. As a startup owner, it is important that you recognize the criticality of having IP in place from the very beginning. The above tips should help you in this regard. Do not hesitate in spending time and money to develop a foolproof IP protection plan to establish and maintain your authority in the market.
As an entrepreneur, Satish believes in being the best in whatever he does in life. Currently in position as Chief Operating Officer of Rikvin, Satish strives to improve client satisfaction, sales revenue, and the implementation of proprietary software to their fullest potential. Beginning his career path as an office boy, to being the top salesperson during his school holidays, he pursued his aspiration to be an environmental entrepreneur after completing his national service in Singapore.