What steps should you proactively take to protect your ideas?June 7, 2022 By Amee Parmar
We can get robbed of many things. From our personal belongings, the very cliché i.e. our heart, to our ideas. Yes, you heard it right. Good ideas can be stolen but can also be prevented with a few protective measures which only an experienced Intellectual Property (IP) lawyer can help you figure out. So, here’s what our experts have to say.
“Sharing is caring is what we all learned but not in all cases, especially at the present times. Sharing too much on social media or to anyone can turn out to be a huge problem for you later; if it's about your Intellectual Property that has an economic value. Since information today is easy to access and distribute with the latest and lightning-speed technology, safeguarding creations from infringers, copycats, and thieves have become vital to any business.”
What is Intellectual Property? Why does it need to be protected?
Any form of original work - be it a product, idea, formula, design, art, discovery, or service, produced by an individual or group is called Intellectual Property.
Intellectual Property Rights Infringement, may seem to be a silly thing, but is in fact a serious crime and may cost a fortune to some, even if it's accidental. Using your IP without your permission, violating it by copying or modifying it, and launching their name instead of yours, are all acts of infringement that are punishable offenses.
Earlier with not so fierce competition as we have today, people respected each other's work. Today, the scenario is different. People are always eyeing others' creations to fake or violate them and earn money in the quickest way possible without putting much effort. And with all tricks available to do so via technology, stealing IP is no rocket science for copycats. Due to such reasons, IP needs to be protected, or else someone will be enjoying the fruit of your labor.
Watch out Someone Might Be Eying on Your Intellectual Property
You may think that who is going to steal your idea or thought? Well, breaking news, they too can be stolen and if you haven’t registered or patented it yet, then you won’t even be able to take action against those violators as there’s no way you can prove it was yours. Thus, if you want to avoid falling into such a trap, it's better to take precautions and opt for intellectual property protection right after you are confident and done with your creation.
So, to make your intellectual property legally belong to you and your business, let’s peek-a-boo into what protective measures you must take to safeguard your intellectual property.
1. Leave No Type of IP Protection Behind
The five primary types of intellectual property protection are - Copyright, Patent, Trademark, Design and Trade Secrets. Half of your job of protecting your IP gets done once you do your Intellectual Property Registration because they are the most crucial steps required to safeguard any type of original work. Although you need not do all as each is categorized to protect specific work, there are some exceptions like in computer programs where one might need to copyright and patent the code and algorithms with devices, as well as register a trademark for marketing them.
So, first of all, determine which intellectual property protection you require to do with the help of an IP expert as each serves its purpose:
Copyright - Any tangible and intangible creative works such as manuscripts, novels, song lyrics, paintings, photographs, technical drawings sound recordings, and more must be copyrighted to protect the rights to “original artistic works,” the validity of which is 70 years after the death of the creator or longer depending on the nature of the IP. Any violation of it allows the IP owner to seek monetary damages and attorney fees if there is a lawsuit.
Patent - Patents are done for inventions, things that are unique and not known to the general public. It gives the owner of the product or the service exclusive rights to prevent anyone from imitating an invention without consent.
Patents are valid for up to 20 years and the owner has to get it done from a Patent office by themselves or with the help of a patent attorney. With a patent, the owner gets the right to stop the production of any competitor who is duplicating their invention.
Trademark - You might have seen symbols like ™, ℠, and the ® which are Trademark symbols that upon acquiring, one can protect the aspects of branding like words, color, phrases, catchphrases, logos, and symbols that identify one's goods, services, and companies. Once registered, you get lifetime protection or as long as it's continued to be used in business, and is renewed every 10 years.
Trade Secret - Each business has some trade secret that they do not want to share with the public. It can be a process or business practice such as a unique formula, secret ingredient, certain programs, and data, that gives a company leverage against its competition, such as a client list, and gain economic advantage. Even though there is no specific registration process for trade secrets, you can still take action upon its theft if you have proper evidence for the same by way of agreements like a contract.
2. Get All the Paperwork Done
Yes, although an old-school method, it is better to document all your discoveries because information leaks are common today in this age of technology. Therefore, to prove your ownership rights, get all the contracts, and agreements, such as a Non-disclosure Agreement (NDA), Confidential Disclosure Agreement (CDA), and Proprietary Information Agreement (PIA), Secrecy Agreement (SA), etc. done and filed for your safety.
3. Register Whatever is Required
There are a lot of business-related things that need to be registered or done legally such as your business, product, or domain name because even if it's in the forming stage or is by your name. Registering and securing them will avoid any type of confusion or disputes later.
4. Up Your Security Measures
Theft of Intellectual Property can happen both online and offline so in both cases, you must be vigilant and enforce strong security measures to prevent anyone from stealing your IP. Here are a few things you can do:
- Set up strong credentials
- Encrypt data
- Use virtual private network access (VPN)
- Invest in licensed virus protection
- Establish Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2)
- Avoid joint ownership
- Prevent sharing too much information with anyone or anywhere even with your closed ones until everything is registered.
5. Seek Experts to Avoid Loopholes
Indeed you can do your Intellectual Property Registration process on your own but, seeking the help of experts is advisable to avoid rejections or loopholes that later lead to your IP infringement.
Tips to Prevent Theft of Your Intellectual Property
- Try to record your discoveries so that you can prove your ownership later when in need.
- Keep it confidential until finalized, registered, or published/launched.
- Obtain appropriate licenses and use licensed or original tools and software.
Neither Stole Nor Get Stolen
Apart from your IP getting misused, it is also possible that you might be unknowingly infringing on someone's IP rights. Therefore, to ensure you won't land in trouble later or to safeguard your IP well and legally, better consult an IP lawyer just to be safe.
Intellectual property protection may seem to be a costly process but instead of losing millions it is better to give a few thousand, isn't it? So, what are you waiting for, consult a pro-IPR law firm like us Parker and Parker Co. LLP to learn more about IP rights and legal actions that can be taken against copycats.