When it comes to protecting your secret sauce AKA your intellectual property (IP), you’ve likely heard the buzzwords. Copyright, trademarks, and trade secrets are all concepts often discussed when it comes to running a business. But do you know how they differ and how they protect you?
Continuing on from our last blog, here is an overview of the more commonly known ways of protecting your intellectual property (IP) and how you can use them to protect your secret sauce.
Registering for a Copyright
Chances are you’ve already heard of this one but aren’t exactly sure how it protects your IP. A copyright gives the creator of original work (AKA you) exclusive rights to it, such as the right to use, display, copy, distribute, modify, sub-license, etc. This is usually the case for a specific period of time. Copyright may apply to a wide range of creative, intellectual, or artistic forms, or "works". It's important to note that you cannot copyright ideas and information themselves, only the form or way they are expressed. You do not need to register a work in order to have copyright, but you must register the copyright if you want to sue another party for infringement.
Using Copyright Notices
If you don't want to formally register for a copyright, you can discourage inappropriate use of your IP by placing copyright notices on things you create like your website, advertisements, materials, documents, presentations, etc. Copyright notices are a simple way to inform your customers, potential customers and employees what they can and can't do with something you created. Often it’s assumed that if this is on your content then your work is copyrighted, but it’s important to know that registering a copyright and using a copyright notice are two different things.
Filing for a Trademark
Here’s another common one! A trademark is a word, name, logo, symbol, device or combination used to identify the source of goods or services to prospective purchasers. Filing for a trademark provides notice to the public of the company's claim of ownership of the mark, and gives you legal presumption of ownership nationwide and the exclusive right to use the mark on or in connection with the goods/services listed in your registration. In other words, it protects your IP and allows you the sole use of that specific mark.
Designating Something as a Trade Secret
Trade secrets are much more commonly understood. Officially, a trade secret is a formula, practice, process, design, instrument, pattern, or compilation of information which is not generally known by the public and gives your company an economic advantage over competitors or customers. By making your IP a trade secret, your business gains protection as long as the information remains confidential and continues to function as a trade secret.
Filing a Patent
Our final method for protecting your secret sauce is a patent. A patent grants an inventor the right to exclude others from making, using, selling, offering to sell, and importing an invention for a limited period of time, in exchange for the public disclosure of the invention. To receive a patent, you would need to file a claim that meets the minimum requirements of patentability, which typically include novelty (originality) and “non-obviousness”. Sounds like secret sauce to us!
That concludes our two-part blog on how to protect your secret sauce! How many of these steps have you taken to protect your organization? Did any of these surprise you?
Failing to take steps to protect your secret sauce opens the door to competitors, employees and/or customers taking what you have worked hard to create and making it their own, either intentionally or unintentionally. If you want to take action to protect your secret sauce, we are here to help. Schedule a consultation with us here.