Why Care About Intellectual Property? IP: The Forgotten First Step

When starting a business, many assume intellectual property (IP) is merely an incredibly expensive legal concept that does not apply to them; or worse, too many people believe IP is something that can be put off until later. It should be known that every company has IP and innovation, and the time to identify and decide upon a strategy to protect your IP is at inception.

Every business has IP

IP can be found in 100% of businesses and is not just for tech businesses or inventors.  Simple items like business or product names, customer lists, and blog or presentation content are IP. Innovation (or IP) is often a business’ most valuable asset, particularly during startup, and must be coveted in the same way as your tangible office assets (e.g., computers, cash, products, etc.). You would not leave the company office unlocked with these items out in the open; IP or intangibles need to be treated with the same care as physical assets.

You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone

Patents are not the only form of IP and often businesses do not understand that trademarks, trade secrets, copyrights and other intangibles are also valuable assets worth protecting.  It is critical to be proactive in identifying your IP so you are aware of how to protect it early on, or at the very least to have an understanding of what (or what not) to publicly discuss. A perfect example of this is the Coca-Cola® recipe, which isn’t a patent but a trade secret and whose recipe is only a trade secret as long as it remains a secret. Their recipe has been valuable IP for over 100 years.

Additionally, making sure you have the rights to a product or company name before thousands are spent on branding and collateral is another benefit to identifying your IP early on. Imagine if another company owned the rights to the Coca-Cola® name! 

Infringing on others’ IP

For small businesses, the fear of IP infringement is again usually limited to products and patents.  Infringement means using someone else’s IP without permission or a license. However, there are many examples of companies facing either cease and desist letters or even heftier fines for using images, videos, or music without correct permissions. As much as Terms and Conditions statements seem burdensome to read, it is critical to understand the terms of use and whether payment or license is required.Starting a business is exciting but making sure that all the IP is identified and protected can mean the difference between success and failure. For more information on intellectual property, check out our video on Demystifying IP.

Mary Juetten, Founder and CEO of Traklight.com, developed the idea for Traklight while earning her JD and has leveraged 25+ years of business experience to globally launch Traklight in less than three years. Traklight is an innovative software company with a mission to empower you to be proactive in identifying, protecting, and leveraging your ideas for your startup, invention, or business. Through the use of online IP identification and storage tools and resources, Traklight users can protect their IP, and prevent infringement disputes and subsequent losses of large sums of money. Follow Traklight on FacebookTwitter, or their blog.