Time and money are the most valuable resources for small business owners. Other than intellectual property (IP), protecting non-cash assets also ranks high on the list.
Many small and medium-sized businesses move in the opposite direction when it comes to IP issues. These issues conjure up images of expensive lawyers and government bureaucracy as well as lengthy, tedious applications.
IP ignorance is not bliss, unfortunately. Understanding intellectual property is essential in a highly competitive market with constantly changing regulations.
So, these are the five things you must know about protecting your firm’s IP.
Take a look.
Check If Your Idea Is Worth It
Would you buy a car without test driving it? We know the answer.
Consider doing the same with your patent procedure. To find out if your invention can be successfully brought to market, take your idea for a spin.
A provisional patent could be one way of doing it.
It protects the filing date but gives you a year to file your complete non-provisional form.
A provisional application allows you to conduct thorough market research and prepare a complete application. It also allows you to evaluate whether it is worth the cost to obtain a full patent.
The Process Is Easy
Due to the (potential) high costs, many small businesses choose not to seek IP protection.
However, things are changing now.
The rise of electronic filing systems and a new classification for SMBs have made it easier to lower costs and speed up the process.
The 2011 America Invents Act (AIA) has made it easier to file IP claims. To reward entrepreneurs for safeguarding their IP, the U.S. system has changed from “first to invent” to “first inventor-to file”.
Save The Hassles
You shouldn’t leave behind your intellectual achievements in the open waters.
The federal law acknowledges and protects personal property and real estate ownership. The law also protects your exclusive control over your ideas and other intangible assets. This ensures that your work is not exploited by others or copied inadvertently.
Remember that protecting your intellectual property does not just involve patents. Your intellectual property portfolio includes copyrights, trademarks, trade dresses (a product’s appearance and feel), as well as website addresses.
You’re required to protect all these.
Do It before Your Competitor Does
Predatory or legitimate, you have to crush your competition to stay alive.
You may lose your right to profit from an invention if someone else files it. It’s that simple.
However, another possibility is that you may be “trolled.” These copyright, trademark, and patent trolls are focused solely on stockpiling IP generated by legitimate businesses. They then force alleged infringers to settle legal disputes.
They realize that few SMB owners have the financial resources to afford years of expensive patent litigation. So they capitalize on this fact to make up as much as $50 billion annually in the U.S.
Ask Your Patent Lawyer Questions
It should not be about whether you can get a patent but whether it is worth the effort.
Your patent lawyers can help you make this decision.
By that, we mean someone who is both experienced and takes a holistic view of your goals. They can also advise you on whether a patent would be worth it. Although these types of patent attorneys are rare, they exist.
These are the questions that you should ask yourself and which you can discuss with your patent attorney.
- What will you do with the patent after you have it?
- Do you plan to license the rights to generate passive royalties?
- Do you intend to sell the patent product yourself?
- Is it possible to begin to develop and market the invention to attract licensing partners?
Protecting your IP is imperative to keeping your business afloat. There is a way to file patent applications and other nuances involved. Consider consulting your patent attorney to ensure the process goes smooth as it can be.