In the age of online shopping, it is more vital than ever that businesses work to stand out from the competition. Customers want the best value, stakeholders wish to hold the bottom line, and investors want a return on their investments.
Every company has some type of intellectual property (IP) these days. The competitive advantage provided by intellectual property is often unbeatable. IP is how businesses stand out, bring in customers, and please stakeholders and investors alike. Companies that are not utilizing intellectual properties are limiting their success.
Intellectual property is the theoretical assets owned and legally protected by specific companies — or sometimes people. Though the investments are speculative, they are protected the same as physical items.
The protection provided for a company’s intellectual property means that competitors cannot replicate it. Whether it is an idea, a logo, a tagline, an invention, a name, an image, or something else entirely, it belongs solely to the company using it. That proprietary use provides value to the company’s goods and services and the overall company valuation.
Intellectual property management best practices
Every business will have its own collection of intellectual properties to manage and protect. “With over 300 billion in IP theft annually in the United States (2017),” intellectual property management and protection is essential. If companies want to maintain their upper hand and continue profiting from their IP, they must follow best practices.
For example, no business can handle all of the ins and outs of IP management alone. That’s why using IP software tools from providers like these can be invaluable to keeping your intellectual property ducks in a row. The best way to manage and protect your intellectual property is to combine a solid legal strategy with sound business practices and tools.
Legally protect your intellectual property
Declaring intellectual property is just one form of protection. It won’t stop thieves from copycatting your ideas and inventions. But, without proper legal protection on top of the IP designation, you are leaving yourself open to theft.
Non-disclosure agreements (NDA) are an excellent way of adding a layer of legal protection. With an NDA, those aware of your intellectual property and all that it entails have limited ability to expose the company’s protected information.
The employment agreement that your employees sign should also add a layer of protection. This agreement should clearly state the company’s intellectual properties and how each employee should handle that information during (and after) their employment.
There are also Invention Disclosure Records (IDR). IDRs internally document the relevant details about a company’s inventions and ideas. IDRs are one of the most effective ways for companies to track the intellectual property that employees create during their tenure.
For those new to intellectual property management or who have an extensive IP portfolio, you may want to consider seeking legal counsel from reputable IP firms.
Internally protect your intellectual property
In addition to the legal protections, companies should work to protect their IP from the inside.
A business should define and detail what your intellectual property includes, allowing you to both develop and protect your IP.
You should appropriately train employees with courses and written materials that you continually update. Refreshing employees’ knowledge and understanding of company policies and protected information is crucial in IP management.
You will also want to control who can access the protected information, both internally and with third-party vendors and partners. Data encryption and regular internal tests and audits can also add a layer of protection within the company.
Invest in an IP management software
IP management software can help a company automate many necessary processes for protecting, developing, and leveraging its intellectual property. This software can allow a company to keep detailed records, ensure regulatory compliance, and improve employee education.
In essence, IP management software can help you handle the majority of the intellectual property management best practices all in one place.
The four types of intellectual property
While intellectual property can be almost anything, in theory, there are four distinct types of IP: copyrights, trademarks, patents, and trade secrets.
Copyright is the most commonly used form of intellectual property. It protects authors and artists by preventing their published and unpublished works from being copied. The Copyright Act of 1976 covers works from the time of creation.
Trademarks are names, symbols, logos, or specific words and phrases that companies use to set themselves apart. These can be anything from a company name to a product tagline. The Trademark Law Treaty Implementation Act protects trademarks.
Patents are often high-cost but high payoff. Inventors or companies use this type of IP to prevent others from copying, manufacturing, or selling their ideas and inventions.
Everyone has heard the term “trade secrets.” This concept may seem abstract, and, in a way, it is. These are facts, ideas, processes that a company has not yet published. The company may choose to maintain these secrets indefinitely or publicly release them.
What makes intellectual property so important?
Intellectual properties can be vital to the success and profitability of a business. It helps companies maintain exclusive market positions, differentiate themselves from the competition, and even generate royalty income should they share their IP with others.
Growing your business is about more than just social media marketing and lead gathering. Companies need something to help them stand out, and IP is an excellent way of adding value.