Intellectual Property can be a strange concept for people to grasp. They often think the concept only applies to artists, authors, musicians and actors. But intellectual property can play a big role for small businesses like ours.

Intellectual Property deals with copyrights, patents, trade secrets and trademarks. Copyrights and trademarks are usually the most common intellectual property involved in professional service companies.

I’ll talk about each of those separately.

The idea with Copyrights is that what you create for your own business (maybe it’s how-to manuals, books, diagrams, drawings, videos, checklists, procedures, podcasts and so on) are yours to protect. They can have significant business value and you should be taking steps to protect them as assets.

The other way copyrights come into play is when we create something for our clients. Do these creations belong to you or to your client? Can they do whatever they want with them? What if they do something that could end up hurting your business or your reputation? Consider whether something needs to be added to your service contract to deal with intellectual property issues.

The last area you may encounter with copyrights is when you want to use something that has been created by someone else. This is called a license and there are specific legal rules that have to be followed with licenses.

The other common IP that small businesses encounter is trademarks. A trademark relates to a brand and how a service or product is represented in the marketplace. The purpose of trademark laws is to protect consumers, not businesses. As a very complex area of law, it requires strategy and planning for how to best protect the business.

If you find that your business has intellectual property and you’d like to talk to us about how to protect it, call us at 904.860.3111 or visit our website at TheLegalDepartment.LAW.