Posted by callgentry |
The rise of the internet has made intellectual property more important for businesses. Today, most potential clients find you online. Unfortunately, the internet also makes it easier for someone to rip off your IP and use it as their own, costing your company money and harming your reputation. Every business, large or small, should take simple steps to protect their IP. Below, our Jefferson City business attorney provides 8 steps to take.
Identify All Your IP
Even small businesses have intellectual property which deserves protection, such as:
- Trademarks or service marks. These are the symbols or names used to identify the product or service as yours. They must be sufficiently original to qualify for protection.
- Patents. Unique products can be patented. This gives you the right to prevent others from making or selling your invention.
- Trade secrets. Your company might have secret recipes or ways of doing something which you want to keep competitors from uncovering.
- Customer lists. Your customer contact information is extremely valuable. A competitor would obviously love to have the names and phone numbers of everyone you have done business with.
Spend some time reviewing your business. Even if you are in the early stages of business formation, this is a great time to think about protecting IP.
Register Trademarks, Copyrights, and Patents
Although you have legal rights without registration, you gain much more protection by registering with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. You can do it yourself, or you can hire a lawyer
Secure Domain Names
Owning domain names is critical. For example, you might have a trash removal company named Garbage Munchers. Ideally, you want people taken directly to your website when they type “Garbage Munchers” and add .com at the end.
You should reserve domains for:
- Your company name
- Any trademarks or service marks
- Any product names
Draft Nondisclosure Agreements for Employees & Vendors
These are also called confidentiality agreements. You should hire a lawyer to draft an airtight agreement that will cover all your IP, including trade secrets and customer lists, along with other proprietary information.
Have Employees Sign Noncompete Agreements
When key employees leave, they take knowledge with them. Although they can’t make copies of your patents or customer lists, they probably gleaned considerable information which is stored in their memories.
You can protect your company by having key employees sign noncompete agreements before beginning work. The typical noncompete agreement states an employee will not work for a competitor or contact your clients/customers for a certain amount of time after leaving employment.
Use Licensing Agreements, where Appropriate
If you let someone use your IP, then you’ll want a licensing agreement that spells out what the licensee can and cannot do with the information.
Include Arbitration Clauses in Contracts
Litigation in court is public. This means that almost all the proprietary information you turn over can be found in court files. True, your lawyer can ask to seal information, but that is cumbersome. Ideally, you can remove all disputes to arbitration, which is a private process that provides an extra layer of protection.
Contact Call & Gentry Law Group, LLC
We can begin protecting your IP if you call our Jefferson City business attorney to schedule a consultation.