intellectual property assets

What are my intellectual property assets? This is a common question that we hear in the office. Many small business owners understand the need to protect various portions of their intellectual property assets, such as a logo or a patent on a unique design, but they fail to grasp the big picture. In other cases, many small businesses fail to realize the depth of their intellectual property assets until it is too late. An article written by the American Small Business Development Centers asks why so many small businesses fail to protect their intellectual property, which offers some interesting insight. This article inspired us, since so many small businesses fail to protect themselves, do they really understand what they possess? Today we will take a look at the types of potential assets even the smallest of businesses may own.

intellectual property assets

Intellectual property, copyrights and trademark can be valuable assets for small businesses.

Small Business Intellectual Property Assets

Intellectual property can cover a great manner of assets within a small business. When looking at the various potential intellectual property assets associated with small business it is best to break it down into several key categories; copyright, trademark, patent, and trade secrets. Lets looks at each in kind:

Copyright Assets

Copyright is not something that typically comes to mind when companies think about their IP assets. Typically, people think about songs or movies when thinking about copyright protections. That line of thinking leaves many IP assets unprotected, unfortunately. Copyright protections, which offer creative license for the exclusive use of the holder, can include a number of assets held by a small business. This can include jingles, graphic works, white papers, architectural drawings, and even a website. In fact, many small businesses possess more copyright assets than they realize.

Trademark Assets

Trademark protection can be a very powerful asset to a small business. A trademark is meant to represent a brand and help to distinguish a product or service in the marketplace. Brand names and logos often the first things that come to mind when companies look into trademark protections. In reality a complete trademark plan can ensure a small business brand is distinguished and protected in a crowded market.

Patent Assets

One common misnomer with patents is that it only protects inventions, but in reality it protects any process, method or invention that is considered useful, non-obvious and novel. If an asset is granted a patent it would offer a small business a 20 year monopoly on the use of the process, or the ability to license the technology or process. The application process can be complex, but for the right intellectual property asset it can be a clear revenue stream for a small business.

Trade Secrets

This is an often confused form of intellectual property. Unlike it’s counterparts, trade secrets are not registered with any governmental entity. Instead, these are often declared with a patent attorney in a sealed, notarized and signed disclosure.  Trade secrets are items that are unique and provide a business with a competitive advantage, such as a recipe or unique process that cannot be protected under traditional IP laws; when the best and only form of protection is secrecy. The best example of such a trade secret is the formula for Coca Cola. Those who may use this secret recipe should be restricted from leaking the information with legal documents like non-disclosure agreements.

The best way to understand and protect your small business intellectual property assets is to speak with an attorney that is well versed in all of the legal nuance of IP law. The Zachary Hiller Law firm can help your small business with an audit of your assets. From that we can form a well rounded plan to protect your intellectual property. Call us today.

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