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 the reality is that intellectual property can play a big role for small business owners.
Intellectual property itself deals with three things. Copyrights, patents, and trademarks. For service professionals, the most common types of intellectual property are copyrights and trademarks. So I’ll talk about each of those separately.
The idea of copyrights is that what you create for your own business can be copyrighted, and maybe it’s manuals, books, diagrams, videos like this one, checklists, procedures, podcasts, and so forth. They are yours to protect. They can have significant business value, and you should be taking steps to protect those assets.
The other way copyrights come into play is when we create something for our clients. These are creations that usually belong to our clients. Should they be able to do what they want with them? Do you have any restrictions on that? Is there anything they could do with that, that would end up hurting you or your business or your reputation? So consider whether maybe something needs to be added to your service contracts if you create intellectual property for your clients.
The last area you may encounter with copyrights is when you use something that has been created by someone else, and this is called a license. There are specific legal rules that you have to follow with licenses, and one of them is that it has to be in writing. So copyrights can be complicated, and there’s many areas where they can be applicable.
The other type of common intellectual property that small businesses deal with are trademarks, and a trademark relates to the brand or how a business or service is represented in the marketplace. The purpose of trademark laws is to protect the consumers, it’s not to protect small businesses, so it has some really strange non-intuitive rules for businesses, but it’s a very complex area of law, and it requires strategy and planning for how best to protect your business. Because even though it’s meant to protect consumers, business owners use it to protect themselves as well.
So if you find that your business has intellectual property and you’d like to talk to us about how to protect it, give us a call at 904-860-3111 or take a look around our website. We’ve got some great resources for intellectual property.