You are a small business owner, nowhere near the level of Apple or Google. So you don’t believe your brand requires a tremendous amount of protection. But your thoughts could never be more wrong.
The logo that you created, the brand that you are developing, the concepts and software that you are producing—they all have value that is worth more than you think.
You never know when you could be in the position to sign a contract or make a deal that transitions your business into a multi-million dollar company. And when this opportunity happens, your business and its intellectual assets will receive a lot more attention.
That is why it is important from the very beginning to have your intellectual property well-protected so that it can never be stolen from you.
You don’t want to be shocked to find out that someone is copying the entire operations of your company. And you would be absolutely powerless to do anything about them profiting from what you have worked so hard to build, due to lacking intellectual property protection.
Following are four ways that you can guard against others stealing your intellectual property from your business.
1. Register your software copyright with the U.S. copyright office
Copyrights are given the second you write something. This protection is supposed to deny anybody the ability to copy, distribute, or display your work without your permission.
If you rely on this copyright, however, you could face problems when someone infringes on it, forcing you to take action.
You can’t actually file a lawsuit against the perpetrator without having your copyright registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. Registering your copyright with the copyright office provides you with better protection in the event you have to go to court.
When you publish computer software, it is especially important for your company to copyright its material as soon as possible. Federal lawsuits can be very expensive. And the later you register your software copyright, the harder it might be for you to receive the proper reimbursement for the estimated damages.
The cost of registering a copyright is only $45 per work, so don’t skip out on getting this necessary protection.
2. Protect against employees stealing your intellectual property
When employees work on developing software within your company, they have tremendous access to your material. Someone can later use this access against your company. This situation might happen if any of your employees were to become dissatisfied and want to damage your business.
That is why it is important to take the necessary steps to protect yourself from any of your employees seeking to exploit the inside knowledge they have.
There are a couple of ways you can safeguard your company.
- Employee Agreements: These state that your company owns all work that your employees do.
- Non-Compete Agreements: Employees cannot create businesses similar to yours while your company employs them, nor for a certain timeframe after their departure from your company.
- Confidentiality and Trade Secrets Agreements: These protect against the disclosure of confidential information that gives too much insight into the operations of your business.
These are just a few ways to protect your intellectual property from disgruntled employees. But even with such measures in place, people will still try to get away with stealing your valuable information.
When this theft occurs, you can protect your intellectual property by taking the necessary precautions to trace all of your steps, verifying your ownership of the copyrighted software. You can do so by establishing a neutral dated audit trail, which stands up very well in court.
3. Avoid source code licenses
Open source code licenses give permission to anybody to use, modify, and share your licensed software.
With so many people having access to your intellectual property, you aren’t in the position to govern every single person’s actions.
Noncompliance issues and licensing issues are common problems that come with using open source code licenses. These are headaches that you want to avoid.
Use a software escrow instead. Software escrow helps protect all parties involved by having a 3rd party escrow agent hold the software’s essential information.
4. Keep trade secrets secret
Simply put, your company must implement the most effective measures to keep your trade secrets safe from exposure.
Trade secrets can be at risk if someone intentionally exposes them to the public. The risk is even greater if you didn’t take steps to keep those trade secrets safe.
The best way to keep your secrets safe is through confidentiality agreements and nondisclosure agreements.
Coca-Cola is a classic example of a company tightly guarding its trade secrets. You don’t have to go to the same extreme measures as Coca-Cola. But be sure to keep your valuable information well-protected.
It is absolutely important to take care of the protection of your company’s intellectual property immediately.
These 4 tips are just a few measures your company can take to ensure others cannot easily steal from you.
Success in business is all about competitive advantage. Don’t let the competitive advantage provided by your intellectual property go unprotected.
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