What Is Intellectual Property and Why Does It Needs Protecting?
Every single process your business does is Intellectual Property. It is the single most important thing you create. The way you use safety gear, the way you maximize your tools in an effective manner to prolong their use, the words you use when you pitch and follow up with prospects, and your digital marketing strategy… these things are all your IP.
IP is so valuable in today’s increasingly knowledge-based economy, yet businesses are not taking the necessary steps in preserving it. Developing your IP gives you an edge over your competitors and requires significant investments in brainpower and skilled labor.
So what are businesses doing to protect IP? Little. In fact, it’s a big issue. Especially when businesses contract with Independent Contractors, Agencies, Vendors, and those outsiders who gain access to your company’s “Secret Sauce.
Protecting intellectual property is critical for any company. While it is an intangible asset, it can be significantly more important than a company’s physical assets. Since it can provide a competitive edge, it must be closely guarded.
Different Types Of Intellectual Property
IP protection can include a variety of intangibles; some of the most common are discussed below.
A trade secret is a non-public procedure or practice of a company that gives an advantage to the business or trade secret holder. Trade secrets, which are often the output of a company’s research and development, must be vigorously protected.
These are the most commonly accessed and stolen. When you let an agency, vendor, new employee into your company to work alongside you, they see your secret sauce.
“Wow I’ve never seen that before!” And then all of a sudden, they know the sauce. This can turn bad when they have competing interests.. Other clients in your industry, on a temporary contract, or once they are fired. Your secret sauce, eg. your lead generation funnels, email marketing strategy, or website content can now find its way around and into your competitors hands.
A patent is a type of property right issued to an investor by a government agency, often the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The patent grants exclusive rights to the inventor over the invention, which may be a design, procedure, improvement, or physical invention like a machine. Patents are frequently held by technology and software businesses for their designs. For instance, Steve Jobs and three other Apple Inc. colleagues filed the patent for the personal computer in 1980.
- Utility Patent
- Provisional Patent
- Design Patent
- Plant Patent
Copyrights protect the authors and creators of original pieces by granting them the sole right to use, copy, and recreate their work. As with musicians, authors of books have their works copyrighted. Additionally, copyright specifies that the original creators may provide permission to use the work to anybody through a licensing agreement.
A trademark is a recognizable symbol, phrase, or logo that identifies a product and legally distinguishes it from other items. A trademark is issued solely to a business, which means the business owns the trademark, and no one else may use or reproduce it. Often, a trademark is synonymous with a company’s brand. For instance, the Coca-Cola Company owns the logo and brand name “Coca Cola” (KO).
Ways To Avoid Intellectual Property Infringement
Given the high cost of infringing intellectual property rights, it is critical to take precautions to ensure that your company is not inappropriately utilizing protected content.
The following procedures will help you prevent inadvertently breaching another person’s or business’s IP rights:
1. Be Selective With Who You Let In
The easiest way for a small business to become victim to IP theft is by outsourcers, contractors, agencies, and vendors who have insight into your business for a short time. You allow them in to do something specific: website development, email marketing, funnel building, direct mail pieces, and they need to know how things operate. The wrong person can take advantage of this and take any new insight and share around town to the highest bidder.
Choose the right candidates with Scorecards.
2. Concrete Provisions and Clauses
When signing-on an outsider into your operations, put protections in place. Usually contracts are flimsy, copy pasted from the web and lack any concrete protections of IP. In one case of Smith Pink Trucks, they identified a case of stolen IP, contacted their web dev agency that sold off their content to 4 websites. His response was “Show me in the contract where it states that you are the owner of the content I created for you.”
Rock solid provisions and clauses, when added to contracts do two things. First, they show independent contractors that you are aware of IP theft and aggressive in the ways to protect your valuable assets. Second, you give yourself protections in the court of law in case any assets are stolen or otherwise misused.
Learn about Watchdog Business Tools.
3. Monitor And Scout For Stolen Materials
It could very well be possible you have been a victim to IP theft and don’t know it. You should actively be looking for your assets wherever they might fall into. For example, if you ever had a web developer, blog or content writer, or social media manager, you would be smart to use tools to detect if your proprietary content is elsewhere on the web. If it is, you could be at risk of getting de-indexed by Google.
Final Words On IP
One more question that must be asked is this: Given that virtually everything in your company is IP, do you have the necessary protections in place to ensure that what is yours remains yours? Check out Watchdog Business Tools to learn more about your IP and how to protect it.
Don’t let a content marketing agency or any marketing vendor ruin your chances with Google. Read our blog here to learn more.