by Intellectual Property Attorney Bill Honaker, the IP Guy
As the New Year approaches, many businesses set goals and make resolutions. One important area to consider is intellectual property (IP). IP refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions, literary and artistic works, symbols, names, and images, which are legally protected. Properly managing and protecting your business’s IP can help you maintain a competitive edge, safeguard your brand and reputation, and maximize the value of your assets.
The IP valuation company, Ocean Tomo, recently reported, “Between 1995 and 2015, the share of intangible asset market value increased from 68% to 84%. In July 2020… intangible assets [are] commanding 90% of the S&P 500 market value.” In other words, IP has never been more important.
Here are a few New Year resolutions to consider when it comes to IP:
- Conduct an IP audit. This is a comprehensive review of your business’s IP assets, including trademarks, patents, copyrights, and trade secrets. An IP audit can help you identify gaps in your IP protection and spotlight any potential issues that may arise in the future.
- Protect your brand. Trademarks are an important aspect of your business’s identity. Make sure you are properly using and protecting your trademarks by using the appropriate trademark symbols and performing regular trademark searches to ensure that your marks are not being used by others. You should also register your trademarks in countries where you’re using or intend to use your marks to obtain maximum protection.
- Obtain patents for your inventions. If your business has developed a new product or process, consider obtaining a patent to protect your intellectual property. Patents provide exclusive rights to use and sell an invention for 20 years from the filing date of the application. The patent process can be complex, so it’s important to consult a patent attorney to ensure your application is prepared and filed properly. Also, don’t disclose your invention until you’ve consulted with patent counsel. If you disclose your invention before you file, you can lose your ability to get patent protection.
- Register copyrights for your important creative works. Every business has copyrights. They can include your website, brochures, catalogs, marketing content, architectural drawings, computer programs, etc. Basically, copyrights protect the expression of an idea in a form that can be reproduced. Copyright registration allows you to legally enforce your rights and seek damages if your works are used without your permission. If you timely file your registration you can also elect statutory damages of $750 to $30,000 per infringement and up to $150,000 for willful infringement. Judges are also encouraged to award attorney fees to the successful party.
- Protect your trade secrets. Trade Secrets are confidential business information that provide a competitive advantage. This can include things like formulas, recipes, customer lists, profit margins and business plans. To protect your trade secrets, make sure you have appropriate confidentiality agreements in place with employees, contractors, and business partners, and take steps to keep the information secure.
- Stay up to date on IP laws and developments. IP regulations are constantly evolving, so it’s important to stay informed about any changes that may impact your business. A great place to keep up to date is my mailing list. Every week I report on IP issues relevant to businesses. My book, A Business Owner’s Guide to Intellectual Property, is a quick read on important IP information that’s critical to your business.
- Consult with a professional. IP law can be complex, and it’s important to get the proper legal advice when dealing with IP issues. My Recipe for Success is a three-part process to ensure that you Recognize your IP, Collect it systematically, and Protect it. Give me a call and I will walk you through it.
Proper management and protection of your business’s intellectual property is crucial for maintaining a competitive edge and maximizing the value of your assets. By making IP a priority in the New Year, and taking steps to protect your brand, inventions, creative works, and trade secrets, you can help ensure the success and longevity of your business.
About the Author:
Bill Honaker, “The IP Guy” is a former USPTO Examiner, a partner with Dickinson-Wright, and author of the forthcoming book, Invisible Assets – How to Maximize the Hidden Value in Your Business. To download a sample chapter, click here.