The rise of global competition, and the sheer availability of information these days, means that it is more important than ever for small business owners, and freelancers, to protect their intellectual property.

What is intellectual property? Put simply, intellectual property refers to any invention of the mind, whether that’s a design, an artistic or literary work, an image, piece of music, or a business strategy. In terms of small businesses, the phrase can even refer to a logo, company name, or ideas discussed during meetings, and so it really is crucial to properly protect each stage of your creative process.

Tips To Protect Your Intellectual Property As A Small Business Owner

The Importance of Protecting your Intellectual Property

Is it really possible to steal an idea? In short, yes. If you’re of the view that intellectual property doesn’t matter, think again; if you’ve worked hard to come up with ideas, slogged over the design of your brand, and seen your innovation grow and flourish, you have every right to want to protect your livelihood. Your intellectual property is your business identity, the factor that sets you apart from competitors, and the very future of your career as a freelancer. Intellectual property can also be used as security for loans as banks and investors will look to the validity of your ideas in order to make their decision.

There are a few things that you can do to protect your intellectual property, including registering a trademark, which can be used to distinguish your brand; applying for a patent, which gives you claim to your ideas over others who may seek to benefit from them; and exploring copyright law. While intellectual property is immediately covered by copyright, there is usually a time limit, and a series of exemptions, that should be looked into; in order to protect your rights, you need to know them. You should also apply for associated web domains, email addresses, and literature prior to applying for a patent or trademark as your business ideas are still searchable, and unprotected, until documents have been processed. It is also worth examining whether the patents and listings that you have put in place will cover the rest of the world; usually, you need to apply for a separate patent, or trademark, for each country you are seeking protection in.

Seek Out the Specialists

If all this talk of intellectual property, copyright infringement, and patenting has got you confused, it is always best to seek specialist help. When it comes to protecting your intellectual property, it never pays to cut corners. Luckily, companies such as DLA Piper are on hand, offering years of experience and a team of specially trained experts to talk you through copyright law, trademarks, and litigation. The company’s CEO, Bob Bratt, has dealt with his fair share of complex intellectual property cases; what he doesn’t know about intellectual property and its safeguarding isn’t worth knowing.

Protecting your intellectual property is absolutely vital if you want to keep up with the competition and continually develop your ideas, but would you know where to start? Be sure to consult an expert; can you really afford not to?