Intellectual property serves as the backbone of any business, and as such, it needs to be protected and managed to increase your company’s valuation and keep your business’ future secure. Here is the second part in our series of tips on maximizing IP value for your business.
Tedious as it may be, paperwork is the most effective tool in protecting your IP rights. Employment contracts should specify IP ownership and include non-compete and non-disclosure agreements as necessary and should be signed by everyone working for the company. When dealing with outside parties in areas where confidential information is divulged, all outside parties should sign a non-disclosure agreement.
Businesses are always growing, changing and innovating, and with that comes new ideas. Businesses should ensure that their employees are disclosing all of the IP they've created, and understand that the IP they generate on company time belongs to the company. Employment agreements should specify that disclosure of IP is mandatory and that IP is assigned to the company.
Audits might not be anyone’s idea of fun, but they serve their purpose. A periodic audit offers the opportunity to review your existing IP portfolio and any new creations, it gives the opportunity to create a plan moving forward to organize your business based upon what IP will be relevant in the future and how to avoid legal disputes. This assessment period can serve to realign not only your IP goals, but your company goals.
Do not infringe
Not infringing upon someone else’s IP might seem like an obvious tip, but the reality is not quite so simple. Most entrepreneurs wouldn't knowingly violate another’s IP rights, and most infringement doesn’t come from malicious intent. But a lack of understanding about IP can lead to unintentional infringement, and even if you are infringing unintentionally, the damage an consequences are the same. To avoid any cases of unintentional IP infringement, be sure to check any and all materials created by others that are used in your work to understand the licenses and permissions needed, and where possible stick to using your own work to avoid potential headaches.
Having all of your IP squared away is great for the long-term health of your business, but it is all for naught if you aren’t able to put that IP to use in helping to grow or expand your business in some manner. When dealing with investors and partners, be sure to have all of the necessary documentation for patents, trademarks and copyrights as well as employment agreements and NDAs available to demonstrate that your company, and therefore their investment, is minimizing its risk.