Intellectual property has become an increasingly valuable asset in today's business. The integration of the intellectual property portfolio – patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets – serves to protect the company's ideas, products, and technology, and enables transfer and investment in technology. New and emerging businesses starting out cash-strapped need to weigh the value of investing in IP protection relative to their many other needs.
There are many factors to consider when deciding whether to seek intellectual property protection and how to secure rights to the intellectual property. For a majority of companies, it is necessary to identify intellectual property that aligns with their core business strategy and to determine the best way to protect that intellectual property. Deciding whether the company's proprietary advances should be patented, copyrighted, or kept as a trade secret, or whether to seek protection of any kind are all decisions that may arise.
While having patented technology does not guarantee success, it can often be a valuable asset for a company, since it secures exclusivity in the resulting technology of one's innovation, investment, and hard work. A patent prevents others from riding on the coattails of a company's hard work, and in some circumstances, can exclude others from competing at all.
At the same time, a patent can also be valuable in establishing relationships with others. For emerging companies, a patent provides security to disclose the technology to business partners without losing control of the technology. Having a unique and proprietary asset will increase the valuation of a company during a buy-out, and thus be a key element of your exit strategy, or it may act as collateral for financing. Failure to secure title to your technology can inhibit sale of the business. The investment into securing patent rights often pale in comparison to the value that an issued patent brings to a company.
A trade secret requires no registration or filing, and can therefore be a very inexpensive means for securing intellectual property. It must not be plausible for customers to reverse engineer the technology. Thus, it is more common for manufacturing processes, chemical formulas, and software code to be kept as trade secrets. While exploitation of trade secrets through licensing is not as common as patent licensing, trade secrets can be licensed or outright conveyed to others for value.
A company name, tag line, or logo can all be source identifiers that are protectable by registration as a trademark or service mark. Registration of one's trademark can create a transferable right that adds value to a business, especially for businesses whose success is dependent on consumer recognition of a reputation or quality level. With a significant portion of business today occurring on the Internet and an abundance of low-quality imitators, it is more essential than ever for a company to use brand recognition to differentiate its products/services.
While it may be well-known to register written works of art, musical compositions, images, and motion pictures for copyright protection, it may not be known that a copyright can be used to protect software code, technical documents, white papers, and other corporate literature. Federal registration of a copyright is simple, affordable, and yields rights that can last for decades without significant legal expense. Additionally, federal registration of a copyrighted work gives the owner powerful recourse if infringement occurs, including awarding a successful plaintiff the costs of attorneys' fees and statutory damages of up to $150,000 per copyrighted work.
Whether your business is emerging or well-established, identification and protection of your intellectual property rights may be an important step to ensuring long-lasting success. The attorneys at Hayes Soloway bring decades of experience to work with your specific business need and provide strategic advice on how to best utilize intellectual property. We invite you to contact one of our attorneys today to develop your intellectual property strategy collaboratively and to help you achieve your desired business success.