This area of infrastructure deals with a type of business asset called intellectual property. This type of asset isn’t necessarily physical, but it can be extremely valuable. This is a complicated body of law and there are many pitfalls for those who don’t educate themselves on the requirements. In order to protect intellectual property rights, certain steps need to be taken.
Frequently Asked Questions
What types of intellectual property could my business have?
There are four main types of intellectual property:
- Copyrights – A protection given to the creator of a creation that is in a tangible medium of expression (in other words, it has to be set out for people to see and cannot be an idea).
- Trademarks – A word or design that appears on goods/services to distinguish them from others in the market. They indicate the source of the goods/services and are intended to protect consumers.
- Patents – Given to an inventor for particular types of inventions as a right to the exclusive use of the invention for a set period of time.
- Trade Secrets – Information developed by private companies that give them an advantage in the marketplace. They are kept secret from competitors and the public.
What should I do if I have copyrights to protect?
You likely deal with copyrighted materials in three ways. First, you may create copyright material in your own business and these are yours to protect. Second, you could create copyrighted materials that then belong to your client. Third, you may be using copyrighted material that belongs to others. In all three situations, you have to be aware of the steps you need to take to respect the rights involved, whether they are your rights or the rights of others.
Do I need to have a license agreement for my intellectual property?
That depends on who uses your intellectual property. If you allow others to use it, then you absolutely need to have a written license agreement. Without one, the question of ownership may arise and could cause business problems as well as rifts in key relationships. It’s also advisable to have a written contract to set out any rules for using the intellectual property, such as: Can it be changed? Can it be used in any way? And many other rules you may want to create to protect your creation and rights.
How do I protect my trade secrets?
The most important thing you can do is to treat them as confidential and keep them secret. If you can, put labels on whatever is physical (not all trade secrets are physical) and mark them as confidential. You must limit their access to those in your business who need to know – they should not be freely accessible. Use non-disclosure agreements with your workers so that they understand how this material is to be treated. And lastly, enforce your rights. If you don’t enforce them, you could lose them.
Focus on these specific areas in your business to build stronger legal infrastructure:
The type, organization, structure, and governance of your business is the most basic aspect of your foundation.
Many service professionals are governed by specialized rules and regulations in addition to general regulations.
Having direct, honest relationships with your clients is the key to repeat business, referrals, and long-term success.
When you’re the client, understanding the agreement and how the relationship should work is critical.
Relationships with an employee or independent contractor need to be defined to protect your business and clients.
Without structure or guidelines to establish expectations and accountability, business partners can pose a high risk.
An important part of protecting your brand is making sure your trademark rights are in place.
Copyrights capture a broad range of things you create for your business or for your clients.
Check out our journal posts below for more information on this topic:
Here’s what clients who came to us for help filing for their trademarks and copyrights are saying:
“The Legal Department handled multiple Trademark and business matters for me. Professional and personable service. TLD is my go-to Jacksonville Business Law firm.”
“Laurie and team are thorough and have provided excellent service on which we can rely confidently. They are an exceptional partner and our relationship is invaluable.”
“Laurie came highly recommended to me by several people when I first started my business, she is a small business owner’s best friend and is an invaluable member of my team.”