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  • Writer's pictureKate Kliebert

What is Intellectual Property in Business?

Most business owners have created intellectual property in the course of running their business and serving their clients or customers.


The question is – do you know what intellectual property (commonly referred to as IP) you have created and is it protected?


Everything you’ve ever created is not automatically considered intellectual property. In fact, many things business owners assume are protected under IP law are not. It’s crucial that you understand what is intellectual property in the first place so you can then make sure you’re properly protecting your assets.


Defining what is intellectual property in business

 It’s a common misconception that anything you create as a business owner is your intellectual property. There are a number of things that you may think or create in your business that are not protected by IP laws.


Let’s start with what is NOT considered intellectual property:

●        Common words and slang

●        Facts

●        Ideas that aren’t yet spoken, written, or recorded

●        Mathematical formulas


Intellectual property law protects creations of the human mind (think creative works, inventions, unique brand names, or symbols). IP rights are personal property rights under the law - which means they can be sold and transferred. Common types of IP are patents, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets.


A calendar is not intellectual property. (It is made up of commonly known and accepted facts and data.)


A calendar charting your sales process with key dates, SOPs, and deadlines is intellectual property. (The dates themselves are not IP, but everything else is original information unique to your business.)


An idea for a product is not intellectual property. (It only exists as an idea in your mind and is not physically represented.)


A sketched out prototype for a product is intellectual property. (Now that the idea is physically represented, it counts as IP.)


If you’re ever unsure about whether something is your intellectual property or not… ask yourself:

-         Is it original?

-         Did a human create it?

-         Does it involve a degree of creativity?


If the answer to all 3 questions is yes, it probably is considered intellectual property. But if you’re still unsure, you can always consult a business attorney!


Why do I need to identify my intellectual property?

 As a business owner, much of the work you use to make your brand stand out and to make money  is based on your intellectual property.


The frameworks you use, the strategies you’ve developed, the unique client processes you’ve created – all of these things are crucial to your business success.


If you don’t clearly identify the intellectual property at play in your business, you can’t properly protect your money-making assets. And that’s why you should care about diligently identifying your intellectual property on an ongoing basis.


This isn’t a one-time process. Each quarter you should review what you’ve created and used in your business to make sure you’re not missing any key IP.


If you don’t know what IP you have in your business, you may miss the signs that someone else has stolen your intellectual property and is using it in their own business to generate revenue. Your IP is at risk when it’s undefined and unprotected.


How do I protect what is intellectual property in my business?

 Once you’ve defined the intellectual property in your business, the next step is protecting that property.


There are four legal ways to protect your intellectual property:

  1. Copyrights

  2. Trademarks

  3. Patents

  4. Trade Secrets


Copyright protection begins as soon as a work is created. But it’s much easier to enforce your copyrights when you’ve registered your work with the US Copyright Office. Copyright registration is quite affordable and can be done independently or with the assistance of an experienced legal professional.


A trademark protects your business or brand name, slogan, or logo and begins when you start using the mark in commerce. The best way to protect a trademark is by registering it with the US Patent and Trademark Office.


Patents are also assigned by the US Patent and Trademark Office. They protect technical inventions – and there are a number of requirements to meet to be qualified for patent protection.


Trade secrets protect your business’s “secret sauce” - those things (like a process, method, technique, or formula) that gain their value from not being known to others or available for their use. Things like the specific recipe for Coke or the Instagram algorithm fall under trade secret protection.


Now that you know what is intellectual property in business…

 It’s your job to make sure you identify all of your IP and make sure it’s protected.


When inventorying your intellectual property, you may find there’s a lot more there than you expected.


If you’re overwhelmed with categorizing and protecting your IP, that’s where a business attorney can step in and take over. This is what we do best!


Whether you need help registering a trademark, creating an official licensing agreement to use your IP to make money, or managing a trademark portfolio – Kliebert Law is here to help.

See how we can help you protect your intellectual property.



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