Today, Michelson IP is celebrating National Entrepreneur’s Day by giving you some quick facts about intellectual property that new business owners should add to their toolkit. By all accounts, data has shown that people are launching their own businesses more than ever in the United States. And why not? Being an entrepreneur can be both financially and personally rewarding.
#1: Intellectual Property is NOT an Idea
“OMG, they stole my idea for leggings with pockets!”
“I was going to name my business Suzy’s Sandwiches! They stole my name!”
Wouldn’t it be great if we got paid for every idea that goes through our heads? Sadly, this is not how it works. Intellectual property is NOT an idea, but rather is an actual creation, such as an invention, trademark, or artistic work. The creator or inventor can seek to establish rights in the creation, by applying for a patent (for an invention), a trademark (for a mark associated with a good or service), or a copyright (for a work of authorship). It is a smart move to invest in obtaining these types of assets. Some may be costly, but in the long run, these protections usually serve to add value to a business.
#2: An Existing Business Might Send You a Cease-and-Desist Notice Because of Your Business Name
Big companies usually have in-house lawyers and staff who spend plenty of time scouring the Internet for goods or services with names that may infringe upon their existing trademarks. For example, if you name your computer business “Apple,” you’re almost certain to receive a notice from Apple’s lawyers asking you to change your business name, or face stiff legal consequences. Being proactive will help prevent conflicts. Once you have come up with a great business name, it is wise to perform Internet searches to see if there are any similar business types that have a similar name. You can even perform a search at www.uspto.gov to see if the name might be trademarked.
There may be scenarios in which your name DOES NOT infringe upon an existing trademark. However, these will likely be unique and specific situations, and could be tricky to navigate. It could require extensive research, or possibly hiring an attorney to help address the matter.
#3: You Can Protect The “Secret Sauce” If You Keep It Trade Secret
You’ve started a new burger restaurant which boasts of a cheeseburger with a “special sauce.” That recipe can also be a type of intellectual property known as a “trade secret.” This is information that could be a “formula, pattern, technique, process…that derives independent economic value from not being generally known…”
The caveat here is the owner of the trade secret must take reasonable steps to ensure the secrecy of the information. If he or she posts the secret sauce ingredients on Twitter, it’s not a trade secret.
#4: There Are Additional Ways to Protect Your IP
Obtaining protection through patents, trademarks, and copyrights is the best way to protect your intellectual property. Businesses can also take additional steps to protect their creations.
Non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements are another good way to insure against disclosure of private information by someone who is privy to it. Signers could be legally liable if it can be shown they were the source of a leak of private information.
Monitoring is another way to protect your business’s intellectual property. It is wise to investigate business competition to be sure your works are not being used without your permission.
#5: Free Educational Resources on IP Are More Accessible Than Ever
Looking to learn more? Luckily, these there’s tons more informative and educational resources available to help up your IP knowledge as you embark on your entrepreneurship journey. Starting with us here at Michelson IP–our digital suite of free resources including a digital textbook, online course, video series, and more–has been touted as a go-to source for basic IP understanding in patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets. You can also search through our blog for more content.
Partner organizations such as USIPA have online resource centers and of course the USPTO is a main hub to access pro bono services.
You can check out our comprehensive IP Education Resource Guide for an in-depth curated list of all the free IP resources out there available at your disposal.
It can take time and money to protect your business’s intellectual property, but it is worth it to ensure your valuable creative works are protected. It will help keep that great momentum going in your business and ensure ownership of your creative works stays with you for the long run.
The Michelson Institute for Intellectual Property, an initiative of the Michelson 20MM Foundation, provides access to empowering IP education for budding inventors and entrepreneurs. Michelson 20MM was founded thanks to the generous support of renowned spinal surgeon Dr. Gary K. Michelson and Alya Michelson. To learn more, visit 20mm.org.