Whether you are a musician, entrepreneur, photographer, inventor, vlogger, or anyone producing original content, you need to protect your intellectual property.
Since humanity entered the digital age, our intellectual properties have been easier to access for everyone. While communication speed gives an IP owner the edge of convenience when it comes to selling or profiting from the original material, there is the risk of infringement, theft, and exploitation.
For example, if you wrote a song and produced it, and then put it online on YoutTube as a ‘lyric video,’ your friends can easily access and enjoy your music from anywhere in the world. If you have enough songs that garner enough views, you can get money from YouTube ad revenue.
However, if you are a generally unknown artist, it will be easy for a Hollywood giant to rip your music and make it entirely theirs. They can sample your song heavily, copy its melody for a different tune, or record it for their album.
If you have secured the copyright to your song, you can claim profits from any use of your material.
Hence, it is crucial that you implement security measures for your intellectual property. If you don’t, people can exploit what is yours, and you will see other people gain the profit that is truly meant for you.
Intellectual property is just like any other property – it is yours. The most apparent difference between intellectual and physical property is the form – the other is immaterial, and the other is tangible.
Intellectual property vs physical property – what’s the difference?
If you own an iPhone, the gadget is your physical property, but you don’t own the brand iPhone’s name, logo, phone design, and the iOS operating system that makes your phone work. Those intangible things are intellectual property owned by MAC.
If you buy a Big Mac, you own the burger, and you can eat it without impunity as it is your physical property the moment you paid for it at the drive-thru. However, you cannot call the burger you are making at your restaurant a Big Mac and sell it because the name is the company McDonald’s intellectual property.
The only way you can sell a Big Mac is by acquiring a franchise from McDonald’s by which you can own a store using its branding, recipes, and operating system and technologies. You own the store, ingredients, and hardware, but you do not own the brand, recipes, and techniques, which are the corporation’s intellectual properties – you only have the license to use them.
Licensing your intellectual property out to someone else is like renting out your physical property. You state the parameters by which they can use your property, including the time limit, reason for use, rules, and other standards you would like to impose.
You cannot license your intellectual property if you do not have the correct evidence that you are the owner. If you cannot prove that your original material is yours, you cannot run after people who are exploiting your property.
Here are ELEVEN actionable TIPs for you to do to SECURE your intellectual property
- Copyright Registration
- Trademarks Registration
- Patents Registration
- Business and Product Name Registration
- Domain Name Registration
- Confidentiality or Non-Disclosure Contracts
- Licensing Contracts
- Online Security
- Single Ownership
- Intellectual Property Insurance
- Legal Protection
Once you create a song, story, novel, article, poem, melody, drawing, picture, or anything original, you own it, and you have the copyright to your material. What is your proof that you own your original content?
To make it evident that you own your original creation, you must register for a copyright. Do not rely and count on a poor man’s copyright as it can be regarded as negligible in a court.
A poor man’s copyright is the method of recording your artwork and mailing it to yourself via any registered postal service. There are no legal provisions that make the technique eligible for a copyright claim.
Register your intellectual property with your government. If you are doing your business in the US, you can visit copyright.gov to register your copyright.
A trademark is either your unique brand name, logo, or unique product description and attributes. For example, Coca-Cola is a trademarked name, and so is their logo and bottle design.
No one else can repurpose their bottle for profit or use it for any other product. Coca-Cola is the only entity allowed to sell anything with their bottles.
If you are a business owner, you will have branding to give your company familiarity with your market. You will use a brand name, logo, and unique selling proposition (USP) or tagline that will resonate with your audience and give you an identity.
When you have your branding in place, without the security of registering them as trademarks, someone else might pick off from where you are and use your work as theirs. If someone starts selling the same product under the same brand name, you cannot claim what is yours when you do not have the evidence that you own the intellectual properties in question.
Visit uspto.gov to register your trademarks and also your patents.
A patent entitles you to ownership of any invention you have created or discovered first. Whether it is a fast-food system, a computer operating system, a mathematical process, medicine, a processing method, an industrial part, or any technological breakthrough, you have to protect your intellectual property by registering a patent.
If you do not register for a patent, someone else might see your apparatus, recreate it, and exploit it as if it is their creation.
One example is Pez Dispensers. The design of the dispenser is a registered patent, and nobody can create a similar apparatus and call it another name.
If your business deals with unique systems of operation or customized apparatuses, you have to register your patents. There is a potential that a partner or employee who knows the workings of your company will copy your intellectual property for their own business – worse is if they register the patents for themselves.
Business and Product Name Registration
As soon as you choose your business name and product name, register them. Your characters will be checked against others in a database, and if you are using the same words, you will be asked to choose another.
This duplicate-checking part of registration ensures that you are safe from someone using the same name first filing a lawsuit against you.
On the other hand, you are protecting your business and product names from being used by someone else. By registering your branding, you can expand to selling franchises without impunity.
Domain Name Registration
When you own a business name, nobody else can use the wordings or your registered brand for their domain name. You are secured to use the domain name.
One great tip is that, as early as you have registered your business name, acquire the best domain name to represent your company as fast as possible. This act reduces the possibility of you having to pay more for the domain name.
Many online companies bulk buy domain names that have business potential with the outlook to sell it for profit to individuals and companies who are interested in them before the seller knows that your domain name is highly significant.
Confidentiality or Non-Disclosure Contracts
Employees in a tech company like Microsoft are required to sign confidentiality or non-disclosure agreements. These contracts protect the confidentiality of the company. The paperwork d mitigate the leaking of trade secrets that can be used by the competition to win in the market.
If you own a business that uses sensitive information that, when exposed, can lead to other people exploiting it, you need to let your employees sign binding contracts. If you are using customized technologies, originally-invented processes, and other unique intellectual properties in your business, protect their secrecy with legal agreements.
You will need a lawyer to officiate your paperwork and legitimize the agreements within your business.
If you are a musician, licensing out your intellectual property is straightforward. You can register your songs to middle transactors, and your music will be made available on streaming services that can bring you profit.
For creative material, especially artwork that can be digitally transferred, it is not difficult to find a space online where you can register for everything that will protect your intellectual property and set it for licensing.
On another level, when you have fully registered all of the intellectual property that surrounds your food business or other industry, you can license out a franchise. While licensing contracts can be complicated, they are not impossible to perfect.
It would significantly help if you hired a legal team to prepare the paperwork and list all of the guidelines that will ensure a franchisee’s profitability. Most importantly, you will be able to earn from the usage of your intellectual property.
Your computer is where most of your intellectual property is stored. You are at risk of hacking and intellectual property theft.
Use a virtual private network, encrypt your data, put passwords where applicable, and, when needed, hire an IT department for online security.
Avoid entering joint intellectual property ownership. It is complicated and will become chaotic when you and your partners come to disagreements.
The legal battles will be long and painful. Keep things simple.
Intellectual Property Insurance
It would be best if you acquired intellectual property insurance as a liability policy with the purpose to protect you from costly legal fees and damages incurred in a judicial proceeding when you are claiming your IP.
Every IP risk is different, and every owner’s requirements vary, so insurance coverage must be tailored to suit your unique situation. You will benefit from a lawyer to represent you and make things easy.
If you are implementing a start-up or upgrading your business, it would help if you hired legal expertise to protect all of your intellectual property. A lawyer can help you find the proper insurance for any intellectual property loss and see to it that when damage happens, you can claim what is rightfully yours.
With a lawyer with expertise in IP and insurance, you will be able to register your properties soundly and find the right protective measures.