When individuals or companies consider the need to protect their intellectual property, the first thing that comes to mind is getting a patent or registering a trademark. But there are a number of strategies to protect your intellectual property — and your competitive advantage — some of which may be easier, faster, and less costly.
Here are a few things to consider when you are considering how to protect your competitive advantage in the U.S. or global market.
1. You can only protect your innovation if it is truly yours, so keep it a secret until you are ready to introduce it to the world. In fact, keeping it a secret may be all you need to do if it is unlikely that someone will be able to recreate it. Trade secrets are protected under the law. If you must disclose your secret to an employee or manufacturer, a non-disclosure agreement is essential.
2. Not every good idea is patentable. Before you put a tremendous amount of work and money into developing a prototype or starting the patent process, work with a law firm like Hankin Patent Law to understand the patentable features of your idea and to search for similar work that may have been conducted previously.
3. Intellectual property law can also protect what is “uniquely you” in the market — your brand. Your name, the unique words or phrases of a tagline, a unique design — these verbal and visual messages represent your company to the world. Through repeated experiences with your “brand,” customers develop trust, goodwill, and loyalty. It is vitally important that you safeguard that customer experience by ensuring that competitors do not hijack your brand. Learn more about trademark registration and enforcement.
4. Your name may be uniquely you, but does it have baggage attached to it in the physical or digital world? Although it may be possible to register your chosen name as a trademark, it may not be wise. Hankin Patent Law can do trademark clearance research for you to identify red flags. Will you be able to get your company name as your domain name? Might there be legal challenges to ownership? Understand that challenge earlier rather than later, when you could be facing a lawsuit for infringement.
5. When it comes to company names, think distinctive, not necessarily descriptive. Many business owners look for company names that are descriptive of the services they provide. Your customers may quickly be able to see that they need you — but they may not be able to quickly differentiate between you and others who provide the same service. Do not let the value of your brand spill over to your competitors with a name that is not “unique enough.”
6. Know what you bought — and what you sold — when commissioning or creating an original artistic work. Only the copyright owner is able to buy, sell, give away or give permission to use copyrighted material. Do not assume you hold the copyright to a creative work (a design, text, logo or Web site), just because you paid for the work.
As an artist, do not feel you must give up your copyright just because a client has purchased a piece. And furthermore, do not assume that you can adapt a copyrighted work without specific permission.
Hankin Patent Law can review your proposed use and develop a contract or licensing agreement to protect you.
7. Know what you are trying to protect — an idea or the expression of an idea? Knowing that distinction will help you and your attorney decide which tool in the intellectual property toolkit will be most effective in protecting your competitive edge.
Protecting Your Intellectual Property Locally and Globally
Intellectual property attorney Marc E. Hankin works with clients in California and across the globe who are looking for the most strategic and cost-effective manner of protecting their ideas and inventions. Selected by his peers and competitors as a southern California SuperLawyer® in intellectual property law for each of the past three years, Mr. Hankin is prepared to advise clients on their rights both within the U.S. and the global market.
Put Hankin Patent Law’s experience and insights to work for you. Contact us to schedule a complimentary initial consultation.