Whether you’re operating as a startup or an established organisation, knowing how to protect your intellectual property couldn’t be more important. Companies often have their intellectual property (IP) stolen and this isn’t preventable or (necessarily) illegal unless you have the right safe guards in place.
With everything from company logos, patents, and industrial designs to copyrighted material, geographical indicators, and trademarks under threat, it pays to protect your intellectual property any way possible.
To help you understand what is intellectual property and how to protect yours, we’ve come up with 7 essential tips for you to follow. Read on to learn more or visit our Small Business blog page for other great articles on how to optimise your business.
Establish a policy
The first job on your list should involve creating a policy for all of your intellectual property. This is also a great time for your company to firmly establish what intellectual property you own and need to protect. IP comes in many forms, including: copyright, patents, trademarks, industrial designs, and geographical indicators.
Create robust contracts and NDAs
No matter how much you trust your employees or contractors, you have to take legal measures to keep your IP safe. Draw up robust legal contracts and NDAs with specialist lawyers in order to clearly state that your company owns all existing intellectual property as well as anything created in the future.
Recently, Google accused Uber of stealing their self-driving technology. In a case all too familiar with the tech industry, an ex-employee of Google-owned Waymo allegedly left the company with valuable IP before founding his own company, Otto. Otto was subsequently bought by Uber and is now at the heart of a serious lawsuit in America. This is a great example of how IP can be stolen and misappropriated at the highest levels of business.
Don’t waste your time on unoriginal ideas
It’s surprising how many companies will invest time, money and resources into ideas that aren’t original. Not only can this be a huge set back but it can also mean your company has missed out on other opportunities by wasting time on a lost cause.
In order to check that your idea is original you need to use patent and trademark searches in the earliest stages of your development process. This allows your company to remain creative while also preventing the waste of valuable assets.
Work with the best specialist lawyers you can afford
Without the advice and expertise of a lawyer who specialises in intellectual property, you may be missing vital points out of your legal documentation and overall strategy.
However, it’s important to remember that the best lawyers don’t have to be located in the city areas, which are typically more expensive. You can still find highly qualified intellectual property lawyers out of the cities and doing this could enable you to make huge savings on fees.
Think about international patents
If your main competitors are based outside of your country of operations then you’ll need to thoroughly investigate international patenting. For example, a US patent will not necessarily protect your IP from competitors in Europe.
While China does have a bad reputation for infringing on intellectual property rights, the country has been a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) since 2001. Being a member means Intellectual Property Laws have to be in line with minimum standards set by the WTO.
While this is the same for all member countries you should still investigate registering your patents and other IP internationally. This will help clear any doubt over the provenance of your IP and save a lot of potential problems.
Protect your valuable data from hackers
Hacking is the number one threat currently facing business across the globe. State-of-the-art IT security has to be put in place in order to reduce the chance of a successful attack and having your IP stolen. Try to identify any areas in your IT systems that you feel are susceptible to attack and increase your defences accordingly.
Prosecute for thievery and copyright breaches
Just like in the case of Google and Uber, IP theft has to be dealt with severely. Ensure that you always keep your patent and trademark protection up to date as a first legal line of defence. If you find your IP has been breached or misused, rigorously pursue the offending party if the cost will justify the outcome.
If you’re interested in updating your IT systems to help ward off data breaches, Saxons is here to help. To learn more about our IT services, please visit the Managed IT Services page.
Alternatively, you can contact a member of our team to find out what is intellectual property and how to protect intellectual property in more detail.