Tips for protecting your MA business’ intellectual property
There are several steps businesses should take to protect their intellectual property on a long-term basis.
Business owners have so much to protect to ensure the success of their operations, including their equipment, digital files, employees and property. While protecting these assets is extremely important, so is ensuring intellectual property is not stolen by an outsider or misused by an employee. If this occurs, the results can create a difficult situation for the Massachusetts business.
Generally speaking, intellectual property is any information or byproduct of the human intellect a business wants to keep others from using or accessing for their own gain. In the U.S., intellectual property is divided into four main categories, which include trade secrets, trademarks, copyrights and patents.
Businesses of all sizes, particularly those just starting up, should take these steps to ensure their intellectual property remains protected:
- Business owners and their teams should educate themselves on the basics of intellectual property. Every company should understand the main tenants of patents, copyrights, trade secrets and trademarks and how they can be used to their advantage.
- Companies should keep in mind that patents are not their only asset. For this reason, businesses should perform an audit to identify all of their registered trademarks and copyrights as well as those that have yet to be registered.
- Businesses should make sure they use carefully-written non-disclosure agreements. Additionally, businesses should make sure all of their employment agreements, sales contracts and technology transfer agreements contain stipulations designed to protect their intellectual property.
- New businesses should make sure they file their patent applications as quickly as possible. Patent applications are simply placeholders, and once the initial submission occurs, businesses have 12 months to finish the filing process.
- Businesses with key competitors located outside of the U.S. should look into securing additional patents. This is important because a standard U.S. patent will not provide protection from competitors in China and Europe.
Business should also think about what their future looks like. Once this is done, businesses should use this information to come up with a long-term patent strategy. This should also be done to determine what work and information needs to be legally protected.
Seek the guidance of an attorney
Developing a long-term, effective plan for protecting intellectual property can be a time-consuming process for Massachusetts businesses, especially if they are first starting out. For this reason, businesses interested in making intellectual property protection a priority should reach out to an attorney in their area for legal guidance and assistance.