Skip to content
See all Blogs

Should my Business Protect Intellectual Property Rights?

While you may be in an industry or hobby where you are generating intellectual property, it is not always necessary to obtain formal intellectual property rights.  Most intellectual property rights protection is created for competitive advantage and commercial purposes.  Some common factors you should consider when evaluating protectable concepts and products include:

Copyright: Copyright gives creators exclusive rights to control how their creative works are used. This includes the right to copy, distribute, display, and adapt their works. If your job involves creating copyrightable material, you should aim to protect your work with common law copyright protections at a minimum.  If you are taking photos or creating content that is for non-commercial or personal purposes and you are ok with others using it, you can opt to make it public use which can be a great opportunity to get your work out there. 

Trademark: Trademarks are vital for brand recognition and consumer protection. They identify the source of goods or services and help consumers distinguish one company's products from another's by the company and product names, slogans, or logos.  Trademarks are almost always for business use and should be considered for formal protection if you want to make sure others don’t use your marks in a way that confuses consumers.  You can seek trademark protection at both the state and federal level. There are common law protections for trademarks as well but those don’t give your good or service much protection if you hope to grow nationally.

Patent: Patents are important for inventors and innovators. They grant exclusive rights to new and useful inventions for a limited period, typically 20 years from the date of filing. Patents encourage inventors to share their knowledge with the public while gaining business advantages.  If you are selling your product or process, formal protection is important, and you should file a patent application with the USPTO.  If you are in research only and simply want credit, you can avoid formal protection but may lose the ability to recapture your exclusive rights.  Often a patent is the most valuable asset the business owns early in its existence.

Trade Secret: Trade secrets are all about keeping business information confidential. They have no fixed duration and remain protected as long as the information remains a secret. Businesses use trade secrets to protect sensitive data that provides them with a competitive edge - a common example is a recipe.  You should diligently protect your secret processes in case you need to pursue action against an infringer. If your trade secret can be reverse engineered or is hard to keep secret, a patent may make sense.

As you can see, protecting your intellectual property is specific to the type of intellectual property and needs and goals of the individual and business.  If you have general intellectual property questions, contact us at (605) 275-5665 today.