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Do you create, use or sell any products or services or plan to do so in the future?

Yes
No

It seems pretty clear why intellectual property (IP) is at the top of your mind. IP represents the fruits of your labor. Taking the time to learn how to protect it will help make certain your efforts to create a unique product or service are not wasted.

Let’s keep going.

Then you might not need to worry about intellectual property protection, at least not yet. Still, understanding what IP is and how it impacts all of us is important. After all, the ability to safeguard ideas, is, at its best, one of the primary drivers of innovation.

Start with Intellectual Property 101.

Are you familiar with the differences between the four primary categories of IP? (Patents, Trademarks, Copyrights and Trade Secrets)?

Yes
No

Excellent. Understanding the differences between the four primary forms of intellectual property protection is the first step to making certain your creations are secure.

Should you find yourself in need of a refresher, take a look at Intellectual Property 101.

Knowing which IP protections are out there is half the battle. Learn more about patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets and what they can do for you by reading Intellectual Property 101.

Are there names, logos, taglines, designs, symbols or packaging styles that uniquely identify your business and its offerings?

Yes
No

While trademarks are a common starting point for many businesses, there are a number of reasons why the development and use of trademarks may not be your first priority. Just know that when you are ready to start marketing and selling your product, having a way for people to identify your brand and the products associated with it is critical.

To learn more, see The Essential Guide to Trademarks.

Then you should spend some time looking into trademarks. Registered trademarks protect your investment by giving consumers a way to recognize your products or services and associate them with the goodwill and reputation that surrounds your brand.

A lot factors in to whether or not a mark can be registered, so the sooner you start the registration process, the better.

Get started with The Essential Guide to Trademarks

Have you created or do you intend to create unique products or processes that no one else has developed?

Yes
No

Get a jump start on your knowledge of patents, which represent one of the most important (and expensive) forms of IP protection. This way, when you do decide to add “inventor” to your business card, you’ll know how to safeguard your work. How? With The Essential Guide to Patent Filing.

Then learn what it takes to patent an idea. Even if you’re not very concerned about your products or processes being stolen, there’s so much more a patent can do for you. Don’t wait too long – once an idea is disclosed publically, your chances of getting a patent are greatly reduced.

Find out more inside The Essential Guide to Trademarks

Are you familiar with the pros and cons associated with filing for IP protection on your own, with the help of an online legal technology provider or through the use of an attorney?

Yes
No

That’s good. But a warning to those looking undertake these processes on your own: Don’t underestimate the amount of risk you’re taking on by handling tasks like trademark registration or patent filing yourself.

What you save in legal fees could pale in comparison to cost of having to re-file or worse, find out later that the protection you thought you had is flawed or “invalid.”

To learn more, review the following:

The Essential Guide to Trademarks
The Essential Guide to Patent Filing

That’s OK, but you’ll want to give the following a read before you look into filing for any form of IP protection:

The Essential Guide to Trademarks
The Essential Guide to Patent Filing

Do you produce any creative work as part of your business model?

Yes
No

Since copyrights can be claimed the moment a creative work is produced, they are often one of the least-utilized forms of IP protection, especially when it comes to businesses that lack a heavy creative focus.

Still, you should know that copyrights aren’t just for artists and authors. Blog posts, web pages, brochures, and employee handbooks are just some of the “works” that could (and often should) receive copyright protection.

To learn more, watch this IP Q&A video — “Is Copyright Law Outdated? Why Should I Care About It?”

Unless that creative work refers to your office Christmas party decorations, copyright protection would likely serve you well.

While a work can be assigned a copyright marking (©) the moment it is created, obtaining official copyright registration from the U.S. Copyright Office is what makes your copyright enforceable and gives you the ability to sue an infringer in federal court.

Here’s an IP Q&A video that can tell you more — “Is Copyright Law Outdated? Why Should I Care About It?”

Do you or will you eventually conduct business overseas?

Yes
No

Looks like you don’t need to worry about international IP protection just yet.

On to the next question!

International IP protection can be challenging and time-consuming to implement and enforce. But for companies looking to expand their business globally, understanding what it takes to file a patent, register a trademark, or claim a copyright outside of the United States can mean the difference between success and failure.

Whether your plans to expand internationally take effect two weeks or 10 years from now, the earlier you begin protecting your IP overseas, the stronger your IP protection will be when you decide to “go global.”

Consider these a “must-read” before you begin your journey:

Intellectual Property 101
The Essential Guide to Patent Filing

Do you have IP-related agreements in place with all of your company’s founders, executives, employees, contractors, clients and prospects?

Yes
No

Well done. Trade secrets are an excellent way to help manage the risk connected to having multiple involved in your company’s day-to-day operations.

Just make certain that a lawyer has either drafted these documents for you or has reviewed what you have on file. An invalid agreement is an invalid agreement, even if it has already been signed.

You’ll find more on trade secrets inside Optimizing Your Patent Portfolio .

Having internal processes in place to protect your trade secrets is extremely important. Unlike patents, copyrights and trademarks, trade secrets never expire, so long as the secret remains “a secret.”

One of the most effective ways to protect trade secrets involves having IP agreements on file for everyone that directly interacts with your company, its products and processes.

Hear why with the following IP Q&A video — “What Are the Most Important IP Protections for Tech Startups?”

 

Are you planning on raising additional capital to expedite the growth of your business?

Yes
No

While it may be a little early for you to start thinking about outside investments, it’s always good to know how you can leverage your IP in the future.

Watch “How Can Startups Leverage IP When Raising Capital?”

Did you know that a solid intellectual property plan can help demonstrate to potential investors that your management team is top notch and your company is competitively positioned in the marketplace?

Learn more about the role of IP in raising capital by watching “How Can Startups Leverage IP When Raising Capital?”

Is your business a software company or do you use unique software developed in-house or with help from contractors?

Yes
No

Congratulations! You’ve successfully completed the assessment.

IP considerations for software companies are often drastically different than those that need to be examined by manufacturers or service providers.

The speed at which software is developed poses many challenges to traditional intellectual property channels like patents or copyrights. Look for resources focused on what kinds of IP protection may be the best for you, and, as always, consult with expert legal counsel, who can help you identify the best IP plan for your business.

Get started by viewing “What Are the Most Important IP Protections for Tech Startups?”

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