Image Courtesy: Ethan Lofton via FlickrIf you're just now opening doors in your new business or company, you might be asking an important question: "Do I have intellectual property (IP) that needs protecting?" Those who aren't asking that question are facing considerable risk; your IP helps you and the economy when you can protect the items you either create or use to help produce commerce for your company. You're also assuring your financial future by seeking out IP you can protect on a national and international level so no one else can profit from them.

But what should you look out for first when seeking out intellectual property around your company on a freely available day?

Keep in mind that when you're discovering intellectual property in your business, you need to categorize it into two categories. The first is industrial property, which entails inventions or anything you're using in your business for commerce like logos and your business name. The second category is items suitable for copyright. This basically includes ideas in your company and creative works of expression. In some cases, these can integrate with the industrial property.

Seeking Out Industrial Property
Before you even opened the doors to your company, you and your staff may have been working on inventions that you'll intend to market later. If these are lying around in storage or out in the open, they could easily get stolen if you haven't already protected them, for example with patents. Patents have recently become a much trickier process in protecting inventions. With new governmental rules, those not first to a patent essentially lose out, regardless of who was technically first in inventing the item.

This can include industrial designs that may fall under copyright since it's a creative form of expression. In many cases, these can be sketches or textual explanations of inventions you have yet to invent. We hope you have those locked in a safe place, though it's easy to get careless and have them accessible to staff who might steal them if they move on to a new job.

Other industrial property to look out for is the property you'll want to trademark, like your business name and logos. These are sometimes more intangible things, or things that you use outside your store and in marketing. These can easily be infringed upon if you decide to not trademark them and go with a common law protection instead. Common law rights give you some protection, though not comprehensively if you don't officially file a trademark.

Intellectual Property for Copyrights
Anything you have lying around your company that was a creative form of expression or an idea shouldn't be accessible to anyone without having a copyright. The risk you take with that is you'll likely have many creative works around if your company does creative work. It's important you put together a task force to seek all of it out and put it in a safe place. After creation of the work, you'll need some help to file copyrights for every item since not protecting them could cost you a fortune if someone steals the ideas.

Once those items are copyrighted, you'll be able to seek out licensing rights where those using your items have to pay you a fee for its use. When you have thousands of copyrighted works, this could add up to thousands if not millions of dollars over time.

Contact us so we can start helping you identify the IP that may be sitting around your company. Just one lone item could cost you a fortune if you don't take account of it and give it the protection it deserves.

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