For most California businesses, intellectual property (IP) is an essential part of day-to-day operations – and their most valuable resource. However, as IP is often intangible property, protecting it can be somewhat of a challenge. The U.S. has a set of laws that help you protect your IP, however, the best approach is taking steps ahead of time to discourage others from infringing upon your property rights.
What is intellectual property?
Intellectual property is an original work, invention, or creation of the mind and includes things like patents, trademarks, digital assets, trade secrets and copyrights. In many cases, your IP carries more value than your business’s other physical assets, which is why protecting it is so important to your company’s future.
If you own intellectual property, you hold exclusive rights to your IP. These rights ensure that no one can use your IP in any way without prior authorization. This includes reproducing, recreating, or preparing derivatives of your work – with or without the goal of making a profit.
How to protect your intellectual property
Protecting intellectual property is crucial for securing unique products, services or ideas and creating and maintaining an advantage over competitors. The first step is registering your IP with the appropriate government agency. Other steps include:
- Comprehensively document your products and ideas chronologically in case data leaks occur or your ownership of the IP is challenged.
- Use digital rights management (DRM) systems, which use digital coding to restrict or limit the usage of your IP elsewhere.
- Craft strong nondisclosure and licensing agreements when sharing any information.
- Implement ironclad security procedures, such as frequently changing passwords, denying access to those without a need to know, and training employees on security methods.
- Monitor use of your IP by licensees and competitors for potential infringement.
The best way to protect your products and trade secrets is to seek experienced legal guidance. With the future of your business at stake, working with lawyers who understand state and federal rules governing IP can help protect your company’s most valuable assets.