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As a business owner and entrepreneur, protecting your novel idea from being copied or stolen is a critical strategy. The first step is to register your intellectual property (IP). IP is what sets your company apart from the rest of the industry – it’s your idea, identity and brand. Registration is a proactive measure in protecting your brand’s value, reputation, and consumer trust. Part of your IP protection strategy is to remain vigilant to ensure another entity does not infringe upon your IP.
But…what if the issue is reversed? What if in all the excitement of marketing your innovative idea the momentum of building your business increases and you inadvertently infringe upon someone else’s intellectual property? When immersed in the daily operations of running a business, intellectual property rights are not always foremost in a business owner’s thoughts or of greatest priority. You can become shortsighted in focusing on the business in front of you, failing to see outside competing ideas. Failure to respect the intellectual property rights of others could have financial consequences for your business whether the violation was intentional or not.
A sound intellectual property strategy to avoid patent, trademark or copyright infringement begins with, implementing a prevention strategy using research. Knowledge is power and knowledge is gained through research. Intellectual property lawyers and professionals conduct research on patents, copyrights, and trademarks to be certain your idea is new and different and does not violate federal or territorial intellectual property law. As your business grows and expands into new products, services, and territory, it is pertinent to continually update your research to ensure you are not encroaching on existing protected rights.
Research is conducted with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) database to uncover any possible “likelihood of confusion” and to ensure a brand or product name, logo or design isn’t already registered. The results of the research helps guide you in making informed decisions regarding graphics, tag lines, or product components to avoid any infringements. Your product or idea may also qualify for patent protection.
Understanding what types of intellectual property assets your business has and how they are protected by the law is key in avoiding improperly using a protected property. IP is a highly specialized area of law that is not easily understood or navigated by attorneys outside the industry, let alone an overwhelmed business owner. An intellectual property attorney is a valuable resource to aid in your research and in taking the legal actions needed on your behalf, giving you peace of mind and the ability to focus on growing your business. If ignored, IP rights violations can have steep consequences on your business including reputational and financial damage, or even criminal charges and jail time.
The legal professionals at Ference & Associates have worked in intellectual property law for decades. Their experience is invaluable when it comes to the protection of your business portfolio. If you have any questions regarding IP infringement, contact the Ference& Associates legal team at 412.741.8400.