Protecting Your Intellectual Property When Starting a Business
Getting Full Benefit from Patents, Trademarks, Copyrights, and Trade Secrets
In almost any business venture, whether you’re providing a product or service, intellectual property rights can be extremely important to your success. You may have a patented product or process giving you exclusive rights for up to 20 years. You may have a trademark that conveys a substantial amount of goodwill or sets you apart in the marketplace. You may use someone’s copyrighted creative output—words, pictures, images, sounds—to gain a hard-earned advantage in the marketplace. Or you may have formulas or other trade secrets that give you a leg up on the competition.
Whether you’re bringing intellectual property into a new business, or you expect to create a significant amount of IP (or both), it’s key that you take the right steps to minimize the risk that someone else will use your property. Here are some steps to protect your business and your bottom line:
- It’s best that your business has full ownership of all patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets. If one of your partners or shareholders owns any of these items, you’ll want to have all right, title, and interest conveyed to the business as soon as the legal entity is formed. Otherwise, you run the risk of losing your rights to use the intellectual property in the event of a dispute with the owner.
- You also need to know that your employees are working in the best interests of the company. The best way to do that is to make clear, in writing, that the company owns all employee work product relating in any way to the goods or services of the company.
- Make certain that all employees sign a non-disclosure agreement, and be very clear about what information is considered confidential.
- If you have trade secrets, prepare non-disclosure agreements for employees, vendors, suppliers, customers, and anyone else who will have access to those trade secrets. Insist that the non-disclosure agreements are signed before granting access to confidential material or trade secrets. It’s better to not do business with someone than to allow them access to trade secrets without a valid non-disclosure agreement in place.
At MCIS Law, PLLC, in Stafford, we aggressively advocate for businesses and individuals in southeast Texas. For a confidential consultation with an experienced and knowledgeable lawyer, email us or call our office at (346) 297-0121. We accept all major credit cards.