jeremy-gallman-30179.jpgEach year, companies lose billions of dollars to intellectual property (IP) theft. Particularly, small businesses that are still in their early stage seem to be the most vulnerable. This is because small business owners are widely known for their reluctance to allocate part of their annual budget to the protection of their ideas. But protecting your IP doesn't have to be a budget-busting proposition. There are simple, reasonable steps that can be taken to keep your work safe, as well as your budget

How do you prevent your ideas from being stolen?

When it comes to IP, protection is something that should be considered from the day you launch your business. Don't wait until your start-up gains some traction to file for a patent or trademark, because it might already be too late. It might seem like an unnecessary expense, especially in the early days when your budget hangs on a shoestring, but the potential cost down the line of having your work stolen is far greater.

Meticulous record-keeping for your business is a good habit to develop regardless, and keeping detailed records of everything you do and when you do it can prove useful should any of your works come into dispute. This is especially true when dealing with potential partners, co-founders, or investors. Too many companies have been undone by having a dispute over IP ownership throw the entire venture into turmoil. Having clearly defined ownership and rights for your IP can sidestep any of these potential issues.

Performing your own due diligence on every potential partner and investor that approaches you for an eventual collaboration is key to avoid any association with potential infringement. IP infringement is certainly nothing to be brushed aside, and working with anyone who has been guilty of it in the past is an unnecessary risk to take at any stage of your business. A little bit of research on who you're thinking of going into business with is a necessary step regardless, so why not make sure that you've covered all of your bases?

What's the risk of downplaying the importance of IP protection?

Your business is tied up in your IP. Over 80% of a company's value is in their intangibles and you cannot claim that value if you do not own and protect that IP. When you leave your IP to chance, you are putting the future of your business at risk. Invest the time and money early in your venture to keep your most valuable assets protected.