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Intellectual property- you might be aware of it in the layman language, but what exactly is it? And, how does it apply to your e-commerce business? 

Intellectual property talks about intangible creations of the mind. These may be inventions, artistic and literary works, symbols and designs, images, and names used in commerce. Generally, all companies, irrespective of their size, possess intellectual property or the other.

Now that you know what intellectual property is, it is vital to understand why it is essential for startups or medium-sized companies and strategically build an intellectual property portfolio. 

Intellectual Property- Why is it Important?

Intellectual property rights and regulations allow companies to protect their core business functions and R&D (Research and Development) activities. These activities may be in addition to creating a more robust negotiating posture for both counterclaims and cross-licensing. These rights and regulations allow companies to block their competitive products, clear a future market share technological path, and dissuade potential entrants. 

Intellectual property law seeks to protect companies and other intangible creations of mind from disclosing trade secrets against unfair competition. And, that’s the reason why intellectual property is worth more than any other tangible asset. 

Business tycoons believe that anybody can steal the hard work without intellectual property laws and spread the same around the globe. What’s even worse is that the creator’s hard work and labour will be worth the ashes. Thus, businesses should never underestimate the vitality of intellectual property protection; instead, it holds paramount importance. 

After all, who then is interested in creating new works? Nobody, maybe. 

Technical security too comes as a determining factor for deterring the less proficient thief. And, the laws form the basis for dealing with more severe crimes. 

Protecting your e-commerce company is one of the many advantages of registering intellectual property. Yes, it also helps you in building brand value. This intangible property falls under assets, and businesses use this as collateral for the loan. 

Intellectual Property Types- What Should a Company Consider to Protect?

Intellectual property has four general categories. These are:

  • Trademarks: These generally identify the origin or the source of goods and services. Logos, company names, taglines, and product names are all company trademarks that can be protected. Companies have to register themselves under the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). 
  • Patents: These are a type of intellectual property that provides owners with the legal right of excluding others from making, using, or even selling the invention for a limited period. However, the creators must publish the public disclosure of the invention in exchange. 
  • Copyrights: Copyrights seek to protect the original creative expressions or authorship works. Some items may be text, combinations, or designs created by the company copyright. 
  • Trade Secrets: Trade secrets are a type of intellectual property protection that includes formulas, processes, practices, designs, instruments, information compilations, and patterns. Know that all these have an economic value since they are not known or readily ascertainable by other people. Also, the owner takes reasonable measures for keeping these a secret. 

Holding Back from Intellectual Property- What Happens When You Don’t Protect It?

Not protecting your intellectual property by conducting necessary searches or even applying applicable registrations exposes your company to a risk of infringement. Yes, a third party could prevent you from using the intellectual property. These can be your company name or logo.  

Alternatively, you may not be the owner of your website rights or other work created for the company by independent contractors. This saying may be true, even if the company pays for the job. 

Also, not having enforceable protection of intellectual property negatively affects the company. Apt protection comes into the light, especially when you’re planning to sell your company and cancelling the transaction. 

Intellectual Property Protection in Mind- What Should Be Your Forward Steps?

  • for Trademarks:

Companies must always conduct searches to determine if the proposed trademark is available both for protection and use. You can search on Google and USPTO databases for discovering common law trademarks and if federal trademark registrations exist. After this, ensure that it is followed by comprehensive searches, which the third-party vendor conducts. 

If the search results point towards lower risk, you file the federal trademark applications to protect the trademarks. However, if the search results present a higher risk, companies must consider new names, taglines, and logos. 

Know that companies must ensure usage and protection at all times. 

  • for Patents:

The process for patents is also similar. Newer, proper techniques and designs are patentable. Conduct searches to determine if art already exists or not. If yes, then it will deter the company from using as well as protecting the invention. 

If searches point towards lower risk, you can file patent applications for protecting the invention. Know that the patent prosecution process is expensive- both in terms of money as well as time. 

Thereby, it is vital to assess an invention’s commercial value and consult an experienced patent attorney before filing the patent application. 

  •  for Copyrights:

Your work paves a path for copyright protection when it is created and fixed in a tangible form. However, it is worthwhile knowing that copyright registration gives your work the most excellent protection. You can also bring a lawsuit for enforcing the copyright. 

Consider filing copyright applications for the original authorship works. These may be source codes, designs, and artworks. 

  • for Trade Secrets:

In the end, if the commercial information cannot be patented, but it possesses economic value, the company should always keep it a secret. Trade secrets are pretty cheap and do not expire. 

Nevertheless, a loophole is that these can be easily lost. Thereby, always guard the information secretly if you want it to become a trade secret. 

Protecting Intellectual Property- What Should be Company’s Arguments?

If you’re an e-commerce company or other inventor, always use non-disclosure confidentiality or agreement provisions with the third party. By doing so, you’ll be able to ensure that the property shared with the third party remains the intellectual property of the company itself. And the third party cannot copy or exploit the same. 

Also, ensure that the work created by the company employees belongs to the company itself and has a category “work made for hire”. If businesses suspect unethical means or are under threat, then include intellectual property provisions in the employment agreements. Thus, all work will be assigned to the company, whether it’s made for hire or not. 

Final Walkthroughs

It is vital to invest in intellectual property on the front end. Studies show that small companies may fail to protect their intellectual property. Sometimes, they may even be unable to talk to potential acquirers about the validity and strength of the intellectual property. 

If that’s the case for you, ensure enveloping yourself with information so that you’re well-informed and can take risks in a better way. 

This is a Sponsored Post – the author has requested this post be shared on Women in Ecommerce – WECAI.org and WE were compensated for sharing.