Everything in our lives need maintenance, whether it's exercising your body, giving your car a tune up, or assessing the health of your business—more specifically their intangible assets. Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs do not fully understand the value of their current and potential intangible assets. Failing to identify those assets, including your intellectual property (IP), could spell the downfall of a business venture, whether risking funding from investors or the protection of IP itself. Getting help from an IP expert is something you should consider if you have been making any of these three common intellectual property mistakes.
1. Failing to do proper research before launching your business
Some entrepreneurs fail to do proper research on ideas they plan to base their business venture on, while others feel this is a poor way to spend their IP budget and neglect establishing an IP budget. There are also those who feel that conducting research on existing patents could potentially ruin their entire business venture if something similar already exist. Out of sight, out of mind, right?
Wrong. It is crucial to research existing IP to make sure your company will not infringe on someone else's copyrights, trademarks, and patents. It will also give you an idea of what you will be able to protect and which ideas legally belong to you. Clearly defining what your company owns and what belongs to another person or entity will help you accurately assess the value of your business venture.
Get help from an IP expert (check out our resources page for some recommendations) and have them conduct research for you before launching your business. You can have comprehensive research conducted by an expert for a small portion of your starting capital. This is a small investment considering it could prevent you from launching a business based on an idea that does not belong to you.
2. Failing to understand how to protect your intangible assets
Do you know the difference between a trademark, copyright, patent, and trade secret? Failing to understand the difference between these terms is one of the top three worst things you can do to protect your IP. Protecting your IP with the wrong solution is a costly mistake since another business might be able to legally use what you believe is yours.
Trademarks should be used to protect logos, brand names, slogans, and other ideas related to your branding strategy. Copyrights are used to protect original works from being reproduced and distributed without your consent. Patents grant you property rights on an idea or a product, which means a patented innovation cannot be used by anyone else. And trade secrets are intangible assets (inventions, confidential information, etc.) that would be valuable to your competitors and need to be protected with utmost secrecy but do not require formal filing.
Many entrepreneurs believe they can protect everything by filing patents. It is best to hire an IP professional who will be able to select the right category for each piece of intellectual property you wish to protect. You can streamline this process by sharing your ID your IP reports with them (the IP Snapshot provides a full overview of your existing and potential intellectual property, making it quick and easy for them to review).
3. Failing to establish a long-term IP strategy
Some entrepreneurs believe they only need to worry about intellectual property during the early stages of their business venture to make sure they do not infringe on IP already registered by another business. The truth is that IP is a relevant issue at any stage of your business venture. We stress the importance of continually updating your ID your IP reports throughout the year to ensure that businesses have a current IP strategy as they seek to grow their company.
Having access to legal resources will make a real difference as you develop your business. You can either hire a full-time IP specialist or subscribe to the services of a legal firm that specializes in intellectual property. This second solution typically proves more affordable for small and medium businesses.
Your IP specialist or law firm will act as your counselor when any issue regarding IP arises. This will help you avoid costly mistakes and protect all your innovations. In the long-term, the right IP protection strategy will boost the value of your business since you will legally own all your ideas (somehing that investors look for when deciding whether or not to risk their money with your business) and will also prevent other businesses from copying your brand.
Do not underestimate the importance of intellectual property! Maintaining intangible assets are a key to the success of your business.