You’re running your own business, you’re living the dream. However, one thing that many entrepreneurs often overlook is protecting their company’s IP (Intellectual Property).
While this makes sense – after all, your struggling to keep the lights on – it can also prove to be fatal as the failure to protect what makes YOUR BUSINESS special could make it easier for the competition to knock you off. It doesn’t need to be this way and this article will explain why protecting your company’s IP is vital to survival.
Why You Need to Protect Your IP
Business has always been competitive, but it appears that the globalized economy has pushed this into hyperdrive. Nowadays your competition is not just companies in the same town as you but they can also be business halfway around the world or even one of your employees.
For this reason, you need to protect what makes your business special – this could what makes your value proposition tick or a product or service. Either way, it is the ‘secret sauce’ that helps to separate your company from everyone else and as such, it is important that you protect it at all costs.
Owning this ‘IP’ will create a barrier to entry that will help to keep other companies from encroaching on your corner of the market. Another reason is that many investors will place a higher value on companies with an exciting IP portfolio and this can help your company stand out when seeking investment.
One thing to know about IP is that it is not just for tech startups. Sure, these companies pride themselves on their patent portfolios but even a service system or your company’s recipes can be vital to standing out from the crowd.
What Should You Protect?
When looking at what to protect, there are a few things that should consider right away. These include your company’s logo, slogan, colors or other elements which are crucial to the ‘public face’ of your brand.
Depending on the size of your company you might want to apply for a registered trademark or it might be enough to copyright certain elements of your brand as these can be considered assets.
Now, this is not something that you can wake up one morning and decide to do. Instead, protecting your IP take some time as you want to look at the key elements and determine the best way to protect them.
Another thing you will want to look at are the applicable laws in the states or countries where you are doing business. For example, if Texas is an important state for you, then you will want to look at the intellectual property laws in Texas; doing so will make sure you are properly protected. Another important part of protecting your IP is the IP search and this will make sure that what you are trying to protect has not already been protected by someone else.
Beyond your logo, you might also ways to consider patent protection for your products. However, you want to keep in mind that you’ll need to apply within three years of when you first started to sell the protect – if not, then the patent application is likely to be declined.
While many business owners are preoccupied with keeping the lights on, this doesn’t mean that they should overlook the need to protect what makes their company special. After all, competition is everywhere and this makes it even more vital to your survival to erect some barriers to competition.
For small businesses, international patents – i.e. applying for patents in multiple countries – might be too expensive. However, you don’t want to overlook the need to protect your patent invention ideas in the most important states or countries where you do business. As such, it is important to perform IP checks and retain a competent intellectual property attorney who can help you and your company.
Beyond this, you might also want to consider licensing agreements, as these will bind your business partners and suppliers to protect critical parts of your business. When it comes to employees, you will want to make sure that everyone sells a non-circumvention and non-competition agreement. While there are limits to these agreements these will help to make sure your employees are not a threat.
Protecting your IP is important and should not be overlooked. Doing so could not only enable your competition to gain the upper hand in a hyper-competitive marketplace but it could also hold you back when trying to attract investors.