A business’s ideas, concepts, and innovations are what distinguish it and give it a competitive edge. Known collectively as intellectual property, protecting these intangible assets is both a top priority and a challenge. Fortunately, the legal system has provided a few different tools that provide significant assistance.
One of the best-established methods of protecting an invention, process, or method of doing something is the patent. Once applied for and approved, a patent provides 20 years’ worth of protection, preserving your unique right to sell, use, create, or import your product.
Similar to a brand name, a trademark represents your product and makes clear that it is yours. If you want to ensure that your ownership is distinguished, you need to apply for a trademark. Once established, it becomes illegal for anybody else to use it unless they have received your approval. Trademark protection lasts indefinitely as long as you continue to use it.
Copyright protection is specifically used for works including music, dramatic works, choreographed works, literary work, architectural work, and even computer programs. What these and similar intellectual property have in common is that they are the expression of an idea.
Trade Secret Protection
Trade secrets represent an entirely different category of intellectual property from those protected by copyright, trademark, or patent, and as such they require a different type of legal action. Trade secrets are the commercially valuable things that you use to give your company an advantage over competitors. They may be a way of doing business, a pricing structure, a strategy, or something along those lines.
The only way to protect a secret is not to share it with others, but in the course of running your business that is impossible – particularly where key employees are concerned. For that reason, businesses protect trade secrets by asking these employees and others privy to this information to sign confidentiality agreements that prevent them from disclosing them to other interested parties. Those who breach these agreements are subject to prosecution.
Additionally, companies that are intent on protecting their intellectual property can take action to assess vulnerabilities and risks regarding secrets that need protection and securing them via internal security, encryption, and the like.
There are many legal steps you can take to protect your company’s invaluable trade secrets and intellectual property. For guidance and assistance, contact us today.