Small Business 101 Series: Intellectual Property Explained

 It is a simple rule. Your business is only as good as the intellectual property behind it. 

That is why entrepreneurs should consider creating a strategy around intellectual property alongside their business operations plan.

What is intellectual property and how can you protect something that may seem hard to quantify? This article will help business owners understand the concept of intellectual property and what companies can do to protect it.

Why Understanding Intellectual Property Is Important 

Creating a plan for small business funding is a standard operating procedure for most businesses. However, creating a plan to manage and protect your intellectual property rights may not be a typical task that comes to mind when you are starting a small business. 

That is a mistake because intellectual properties are the ideas behind the small business. This can include trade secrets, patents, innovation, copyrights, trademarks, or anything that gives your small business a competitive advantage. 

Intellectual property management is the secret recipe behind Coca Cola. It is the small business strategy that propelled Amazon to mega-millions. It is in the logos of small and large companies, the content they write, and the proprietary software they build. How can you protect something so valuable yet nebulous? How can entrepreneurs so new that they have not even secured small business funding secure their intellectual property?


Securing Intellectual Property 

Bond Street says, “As a business owner, you can’t patent a business idea, but you can protect a method of doing business, as long as it meets a specific set of requirements.” Some of the intellectual property entrepreneurs can protect include:

    • Patents for a process or method you use in the business. This could be a procedure for producing a product, the machine you use to do it, a proprietary recipe, an invention, or something else.  
    • Trademarks, the words and symbols you use to designate your brand. This includes the familiar TM symbol you see behind brand names or concepts. Trademarks protect the public face of your business and your goal is to have it become as familiar as the Apple logo or the Nike swoosh checkmark. At a minimum, entrepreneurs should trademark their company name to protect it from being used by someone else.  
    • Copyrights. A copyright can protect a phrase or title or the body of a published or unpublished document. However, you must register the document for it to be protected.

Patents, trademarks, and copyrights can be obtained through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Having one will help you protect against competitor encroachment. This works both ways; it will also protect your competitors from the inadvertent or deliberate use of the business intangibles that are so important to your business growth. 

Intellectual property rights give you the legal ability to stop someone from using your tools or even your business name. It’s an important legal protection that many small business owners fail to use until there is a problem. Having a patent, trademark, or copyright prevents other businesses from stealing your intellectual capital, business processes, and ideas. Protecting these ideas is an important form of legal insurance that can get your small business off the ground and protect it as it grows. 

Once you have clarified your business strategies, including your intellectual property rights, it is a good time to think about how to fund your business. Benetrends can help. Click here to download our Innovative Funding Strategies For Entrepreneurs ebook. 

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