You may think your business’s primary assets are your building, the computer equipment you own, or perhaps a vehicle fleet. And you surely have insurance on those assets. But what about your intellectual property assets? Are you giving them due consideration and protection?
What Counts as Intellectual Property?
When you think of intellectual property (IP), what comes to mind first? For most people, they think of the research and development division and patented inventions, including proprietary algorithms, processes, and methods. But your sales and marketing departments also have IP, in the form of copyrighted documents, trademarked logos, your website domain name, and client lists.
What Protection Does Intellectual Property Need?
If someone stole all of your business’s computer equipment, you would expect your insurance company to reimburse you thousands of dollars. Think of your IP the same way. Ask yourself these questions: If a competitor got access to your proprietary process and your client list, what would that cost you in sales? If you were to sue an IP thief, how much compensation would you expect? The answers to those questions will give you an idea of how carefully you should be protecting those assets.
Here are a few examples of ways a business can go about protecting its IP:
Register Your Trademarks: Any important brand or service name should be registered as a trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. A start-up business will typically spend thousands if not millions of dollars on advertising and promotion to build awareness of and equity in the name of the company and its primary product. Should another company start using the same or a similar name or logo to promote a product that competes with or could be confused for yours, your trademark registration will prove that you used the name/logo first.
Defend Your Domain Name: Have you ever mistyped the name of a website and found yourself on a similar site selling similar goods? That could be an example of a guerilla competitor trying to steal business from a larger, better-known brand. This practice of using a domain name that is very similar to a trademarked or personal name is called cybersquatting.
If your business does a large percentage of its sales through your website, there are a variety of ways to protect your domain name. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) offers a dispute resolution process, although it does not provide for monetary compensation for any losses incurred.
You can also sue an offending competitor under the federal Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act of 1999, which allows the original domain name owner to recover up to three times their actual damages.
A third strategy is to take over similar domain names and redirect them to your “real” website. For example, if you enter the URL “CraigList.com” into a browser, you will automatically be redirected to the true CraigsList.org site.
Protect Your Patents. If you operate a high-tech business out of Silicon Valley, you know how valuable patents are. The long-term profitability of your company may well hinge on your being the first to file a patent on a significant new product or process. It is also important to act quickly against anyone who infringes on one of your patents.
Secure Your Secrets. Trade secrets include any information not generally known outside your company that gives you an economic advantage in the marketplace. Most companies have an employee handbook that sets out policies for protecting your confidential business data and require their employees to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA).
Consult an Experienced San Jose Intellectual Property Lawyer
Does your business need to secure or defend trademarks, patents, and other forms of IP? An experienced Silicon Valley intellectual property attorney can help. Call SAC Attorneys LLP at 408-436-0789 to schedule a free consultation.