Control Intellectual Property

Control Intellectual Property

In addition to regular business information, you need to understand and keep an inventoried portfolio of all your company’s Intellectual Property (IP). IP refers to a legal entitlement that sometimes attaches to the expressed form of an idea, or to some other intangible subject matter.

This legal entitlement generally enables its holder to exercise exclusive rights of use in relation to the subject matter of the IP. The term intellectual property reflects the idea that the subject matter is the “product of the mind or the intellect,” and its IP rights may be protected by law in the same way as any other form of property. Intellectual property can also apply to lyrics and poems.

All of your intellectual property should have value to your firm, as long as you have proactively developed and protected it to the best of your ability.

For more IP information:

If you develop software, for example, the code itself may be considered your intellectual property and could have components whose processes may qualify for a patent.

A patent is “a grant made by a government that confers upon the creator of an invention the sole right to make, use, and sell that invention for a set period.”

Whether your software is patentable or not, any computer software or text document can be copyrighted. The definition of copyright is “the legal right granted to an author, composer, playwright, publisher, or distributor to exclusive publication, production, sale, or distribution of a literary, musical, dramatic, or artistic work.” If you wrote a book, your copyright is intellectual property.

If your company name is unique and not descriptive of the services you offer, then it likely qualifies for trademark protection (TM). A trademark is “a name, symbol, or other device identifying a product, officially registered and legally restricted to the use of the owner or manufacturer.”[1] If your logo is unique, it qualifies for trademark protection, too.

In general, intellectual property attorneys have cozy relationships with their colleagues at the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), even though conceptually that could become a costly conflict of interest. They will unfortunately make sure many successive filings are required in order to ensure that your patent or trademark is successfully registered, if it can be registered at all.

It is crucial that all IP paperwork is carefully organized and safeguarded. The registration process through lawyers is generally unreasonably expensive, regardless of the risk that the filing ultimately might not be approved.

The IP attorneys don’t take jobs on contingency or have caps on their bills; as such, they generally make the process as long, confusing, and multi-part as possible while jacking up fees along the way. Still, IP protection is not a process that should be skipped merely in the interest of saving money. Your branding and intellectual property protection is critical and will be profitable in the long run. If you can find a way to save money in the process, more power to you—but don’t skip or delay it under any circumstances, or you could lose the massive value that is potentially right at your fingertips.

The earlier you attempt to control and protect your intellectual property, the more likely you are to be effective, and at a lower cost with less hassle. This is yet another case where one of our favorite and most critical concepts in growing a profitable business applies: “Break the calendar.”

Also, if you fail to properly control your IP, then the sale price of your company will be adversely affected should you attempt to sell it.

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