Previously in our Intellectual Property (IP) Best Practices series, we introduced 10 steps to maximizing your IP. Today's blog is the second in this series, and the first to begin discussing each of those steps in sequence. Please check back every Monday for the next part in this series. Enjoy!

Image Courtsey: Eddi @ Flickr

The big question that anyone running a business asks, or at least should be asking, is, “Do I have IP?” The first step (identifying intellectual property) may seem like the most obvious but not enough entrepreneurs and startups understand the importance and urgency of it. Before you can get legal protection for your IP, you have to find out what type of IP you posses.

Although easy to identify popularly understood intellectual property such as copyrightable materials, your company may possess a plethora of IP that you didn't even know qualified as such. Take trade secrets for example: Many companies do not understand how much discretion to employ when conducting their affairs and what methods to use to protect a competitive method from being used by their competitor. All that to say, understanding your intellectual property is a prerequisite to identifying what type of IP you have created.

To put it simply, IP is anything innovative that you create. It makes your business unique and differentiates it from others in the market. This can be your ideas, models, even processes and procedures. Can you trademark an idea? Ideas, unless expressed or embodied in some form, cannot be legally protected. To foster creativity and innovation, public policy has development to protect pursuits of the mind, enabling the derivation of financial gain from the same. Never make the assumption that something part of your business is too ‘common’ or ‘probably can't be protected.' When in doubt always err on the side of caution.

Key business practices unique to your company are IP that you possess; these carry value. Marketing campaigns, formulas, or anything providing a competitive advantage in your field is IP that can and should be protected. By identifying such valuable assets, not only do you manage to retain an upper hand over your competition, but you also gain a monetary asset that increases valuation if you ever plan to sell your IP piecemeal or the business as a whole.

To identify all the intellectual property your company possesses, it is important to sit down with each of your key employees to discuss business processes, innovative technology, or any methods they employ to manage the affairs of the company. They do not have to believe something is unique to have value. It is your job to collect information and then transmit it to someone who can separate what can be protected from what can not. For example, many engineers, having only a cursory understanding of patents, may believe an improvement made to existing technology is non-patentable because they see it as ‘obvious.’ Companies have lost money hand over fist by making such avoidable mistakes.

Traklight's ID your IP software is a cost-effective and reliable method to make sense out of all the data. It lets you feed in your information and then generates a personalized report that not only identifies the IP you possess but outlines the steps you should take to protect that IP. Some IP registration is simple enough that you can do so without an attorney. However, having a guide in hand makes an otherwise intimidating and expensive task a lot simpler on yourself, and your wallet.

Get ID your IP today and start leveraging the maximum financial benefit from your business.

ID your IP