Intellectual property is important to your small business, as it's those ideas that got you to where you are today. Intellectual property includes everything from a new logo for your business cards and website content to a company slogan. Without protection, you may fall victim to piracy, counterfeiting, and theft of all intellectual property assets. Exporters face unfair competition abroad, non-exporters face counterfeit imports at home, and all businesses face legal, health, and safety risks from the threat of counterfeit goods entering their supply chains. Protection of intellectual property isn't just important to businesses; anyone who has a creative idea they prosper off of can be affected. Artists would not receive full compensation for their creations, authors would not receive acknowledgment for their writing, and inventors would not receive the rights to their ideas.
The best course of action is to visit the USPTO. In the U.S., a patent grant provides “the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling” the invention in the U.S. or “importing” the invention into the U.S. The process of patenting your invention or idea takes time and money. At present, the average patent application takes about 24.6 months. According to Douglas Sorocco, a patent attorney with Dunlap Codding, "We’re telling people anywhere from five to eight years." The costs can range between $1,000 and $100,000, depending on the complexity of your idea.
While expensive and time consuming, you will find that aggressively pursuing patents is an integral long-term strategy that pays off. Any small business that exports its IP protected products abroad or sources its products or parts overseas must take into account the potential for rampant IP theft in many countries. In fact, research conducted by the USPTO this year found that only 15 percent of small businesses that conduct business overseas know that they need to file for IP protection abroad. This can be unfortunate since small businesses generally do not have the level of access or the resources, such as specialized legal counsel, that may be available to larger companies.
If you have found that your intellectual property is being used without your permission, contact an attorney, who will probably draft a simple letter notifying the offending party of the infringement and requesting that it cease using your trademarked or copyrighted material. If that does not occur within the time frame you provide the infringer, you may decide to seek legal action.
Consider these methods of protecting your work. Though they do not expressly protect the idea, they will protect the outcome.
Â© Copyright. "Exclusive rights granted to the author or creator of an original work, including the right to copy, distribute, and adapt the work."
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾ Trademarks. "A distinctive sign or indicator used by an individual, business organization, or other legal entity to identify that the products or services to consumers with which the trademark appears originate from a unique source, and to distinguish its products or services from those of other entities."
SM Servicemark. "A trademark used in some countries, notably the United States, to identify a service rather than a product."
Â® Registered Trademark. "Used to provide notice that the preceding mark is a trademark or service mark that has been registered with a national trademark office."