Intellectual Property 101: Small Business Owner's Overview

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As a small business owner, you probably don't worry too much about your company's intellectual property. In fact, if you've been primarily focused on your daily operations, you may not even really know what intellectual property is. Since intellectual property theft is one of the most common types of cases for business attorneys, it's in your best interest to know both what your intellectual property is and how to protect it. Here are a few things you should know to help you get started.

What Exactly Is Intellectual Property?

A company's intellectual property is any asset that isn't necessarily tangible. This includes things like patents, trademarks, designs, ideas, and copyrights. All of these things can prove valuable, particularly to your competition. If stolen, they can be used to undermine your business operations.

How Do You Protect Your Intellectual Property?

Your company's intellectual property shouldn't be treated carelessly. It needs to be handled as the valuable commodity that it is. That means keeping it secure and protected against any potential infringement or theft.

Know What You Have: To do this, the first thing you have to do is identify all of your intellectual property. Sit down with your staff and create a comprehensive list of everything that falls under the intellectual property definition. Only then can you truly keep it all secure.

Build A Plan: Once you know what you have to protect, it's time to establish a management plan. That means determining how your files associated with these things will be stored, who will have access to the information, and how you can ensure that those people will protect that information.

Use The Law To Your Advantage: Once you know what your intellectual property is and how it will be handled, it's time to take every legal avenue you can to secure it. Establish solid employment contracts that prevent any of your employees from disclosing the information. Further, require that every employee and potential business partner sign a non-disclosure agreement before they are allowed access to the information. This gives you some legal enforcement if they should violate the terms of those contracts. Your corporate lawyer can help you phrase the contracts to ensure that your business has the right to all existing and any future developed intellectual property.

Broaden Your Protection Scope: Don't focus solely on protecting your intellectual property from those within your business. You should also talk with a business attorney about protecting your intellectual property internationally. You can file international patents to help protect your company's ideas and designs from any kind of infringement overseas as well. Further, make sure that your data servers are secured to protect the information from any potential hackers.

What Can Be Done To Address Intellectual Property Theft?

Even the best security measures can't completely guarantee that you won't suffer some form of intellectual property theft. The important thing is to know exactly what you can do if it happens. You should always have a skilled business litigation attorney on retainer, because he or she can ensure that any type of intellectual property theft is investigated and taken to court to preserve your rights. The more aggressive you are about it, the better your chances are of protecting your property and getting the restitution you deserve if there ever is a breach.

As you can see, intellectual property is an important component of any business operation. It's in your best interest to understand what it is and how you can protect it in order to protect your company's interests. Contact a law firm like The Fernandez Law Firm, a Business and Technology Law Firm for more guidance and information to help you.

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