How to Protect Intellectual Property for Business
Does your small business have intellectual property? Is it protected? As a small business owner, the protection of your ideas, business name, logo and unique products and/or services that give your business an identity and a competitive edge are important. Without protection, others may copy and profit from your hard work, ideas and innovations.
You can protect your intellectual property with the help of laws that provide you with rights to control their use. The three most common intellectual property protection laws are patent, trademark and copyright.
About the Three Most Common Intellectual Property Protection Laws
A patent is a set of limited-time exclusive rights granted by the U.S. Government via the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to an inventor/designer/creator in exchange for detailed public disclosure of the product or process being patented. There are several types of patents available. For more information on patents, go to uspto.gov/patent.
A trademark is a recognizable name, sign, design, word, phrase, symbol or any combination of these that identifies the brand owner of a certain product or service. In short, it’s your brand and there are several different ways you can protect it using trademark law. For more information on trademark protection and how to get started go to uspto.gov/trademark.
A copyright provides legal protection to creators of original work. This includes written works, music, pictures and more. From a business standpoint, this can include marketing materials such as brochures, catalogues and ads, as well as websites. Copyright protection is easier to obtain as opposed to a patent or trademark. In fact, a work is considered “copyrighted” as soon as it is created, provided it meets the definition of original. But there are more formal means of copyrighting your work if you wish to go a step further in protecting it. For more information on copyrights, go to copyright.gov.
The U.S. Small Business Administration, through its SBA Learning Center, offers an online course that can give you more details and information on how to use these three protections to safeguard the intellectual property of your small business. You can access the learning center at sba.gov/tools/sba-learning-center/search/training to see all the courses available. For the Patents, Trademarks and Copyrights course specifically, go to sba.gov/tools/sba-learning-center/training/patents-trademarks-copyrights.
The SBA also has several resource partners that can offer you some guidance and advice on protecting your intellectual property. Visit SCORE, the America’s SBDC Iowa or the Iowa Women’s Business Center at the Iowa Center for Economic Success for more information.
Learn more about starting and growing your business at sba.gov.
Discover more legal resources for your small business, as well as Staffing & Hiring resources for your small business in The Partnership’s Small Business Resources Hub or sign up for the Small Business Resources newsletter and stay connected for information about upcoming events, other resources and the latest announcements in the small business community in Greater Des Moines (DSM).