Even when you’ve taken the necessary precautions to try and prevent theft, there are still going to be those who try and use your work, thinking that they won’t get caught given the sheer size of the internet. Having your website’s artwork or copy copied at a computer somewhere in the world isn’t quite as simple as seeing someone on your stolen bike at the local 7-11. That’s why part of intellectual property protection is vigilance. Unfortunately, there isn’t an internet equivalent of police cars roaming to deter theft. It may seem like a chore, but taking time to dome some internet searches can help catch thieves that may have otherwise gone unnoticed.
More than just some pictures or video clips, some thieves will go so far as to try and take advantage of your entire business. As much as anything else in your business, your reputation is tied up in your name and brand. Having someone exploit that name and potentially harm the reputation and goodwill that you’ve built in the marketplace can be disastrous for most small businesses. Having trademarks on your company name and logo is essential to shutting down those who would try to use your branding for their own purposes.
One intellectual property challenge unique to the modern age is the crowdfunding campaign. This democratization of financial resources has allowed far more entrepreneurs to make their projects a reality, but it has also presented a new set of issues. Part of setting up a crowdfunding campaign for an invention often involves letting potential contributors know what it is and what it does, usually including pictures. While demonstrating what you’ve created and what it can do is a good technique for getting people to contribute, it can open you up to having your idea stolen. Crowdfunding platforms have seen a rash of copycat campaigns where thieves copy someone’s pitch and pictures in an effort to confuse contributors. And detailing your ideas in a public forum also opens you up to concerns of public disclosure, which can hinder your chances of filing for patents in the future.
Anytime you are presenting information about your company, product or processes in a public setting, having a non-disclosure agreement signed by all parties will help to ensure that sensitive information about your business will remain secret. When you’re presenting at a trade show or disseminating information online, NDAs are obviously not a realistic option, so be sure to talk about what you do in very general terms and avoid going into details that could easily be copied.
Modern technology makes it difficult to protect the work that you put online, but not impossible. While there are ultimately no absolute safeguards against theft, either online or in the physical world, you can take measures to ensure that thieves aren’t able to escape consequences. Taking time after the creative process to handle seemingly tedious tasks such as filing for IP protection may seem like a waste, but it can be the difference between success and failure.