Previously in our Intellectual Property (IP) Best Practices series, we introduced step one to maximizing your IP: Identify. Please check back every Monday for the next part in this series.

Image Courtesy: mrehan @ Flickr

Once you are done identifying your intellectual property, the hard part begins. As much as we would all love a magical wand that, with a flick of the wrist, automatically protects all your IP against the world at large, none exists. Trust me, I have checked. But fear not, you can conquer this overwhelming task with some help and a deeper understanding of what you want from your IP.

Most likely you have a varying bundle of IP rights including materials that can be trademarked or are copyrightable, processes that can be protected as trade secrets, and innovations that can be patented. All of these forms of IP come with varying protection and differing filing processes; or in the case of trade secrets, no filing process at all. You do not always have to approach a lawyer to register your IP. Under a lot of circumstances you can register IP without an attorney. Using our ID your IP software, you can generate a personalized report that will tell you the best course of action to pursue.

While it may sound unwise not to patent all new products a company creates, it may not always be in the company’s best interests to do so. Depending on the nature of the industry, a company may not want the same protection someone else with similar IP would want. For example, a technology startup would want to protect its startup tech IP as sturdily as possible, sparing no expenditure, as that is its main asset. Especially in a fledgling company where funds are limited, it is advisable to first analyze the prospects of return on investment a particular product will give the company before filing a patent application. Patent application fees coupled with the cost of hiring a lawyer are not cheap and choosing to do so is ultimately a business decision.

In the same vein, even if a product is worth patenting, it is important to determine the market within which the company plans to operate to understand whether filing a foreign patent application is a good idea. A foreign patent application is also costly and may not provide the same protection afforded domestically. For example, if you are a startup then obtaining a patent solely to sue competitors does not make sense as the cost of litigation will bleed a small business dry even when you are in the right. On the other hand if a small business is filing a patent to prevent someone from patenting the same idea then they could publish the idea publicly giving you a decent window before actually having to file a patent and spend the funds where they are needed immediately.

But there are many reasons why a startup or entrepreneur may want to get there IP registered. If you plan to sell or seek investment then registering IP adds to the valuation. If you plan to work with other third parties on a product under development then filing a patent application serves as proof of invention and prevents the other party from claiming the same at a later date; these illustrations are just a few out of the multitude of questions and concerns every startup and entrepreneur must ask themselves. The key to protecting intellectual property and better utilizing its resources is having a better understanding of the company’s goals and future.

The next step to maximize IP efficiency is Management. For more information on intellectual property check out Traklight's Resources and fill out the risk quiz today.

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