If you are a successful franchisor or entrepreneur (of a non-franchised business), chances are that you place great priority on the development of your intellectual property such as your trademarks, trade designs, and innovations that may be the subject of a patent. While successful business owners and entrepreneurs are great at innovating and creating intellectual property sometimes, mistakes are unnecessarily made respecting the protection of your intellectual property.
When evaluating the development and protection of your intellectual property, the following are some factors that you should be aware of and considering as you manage your critical intellectual property assets:
Intellectual Property is a Two-Sided Coin and Isn’t Limited to Just One Thing
That is, your view toward your intellectual property assets should be expansive and involve the recognition that you are not just limited to trademarks or patents. Many of the key intellectual property assets that comprise your business may be afforded an array of protections involving trademarks, patents, and a broad array of common law protections associated with trade secrets, customer lists, production sources, and other confidential components that drive your business. The key is to properly structure your legal approach to these assets and afford them the maximum protection possible. For example:
- Have your key employees with access to confidential information about customers and production sources signed limited but enforceable confidentiality agreements;
- Do you review with your corporate counsel the current usage of your trademarks to ensure that your trademark registrations are current and that supplemental applications are not warranted;
- Have your production sources signed off on confidentiality agreements respecting key components or processes involved in the production of your proprietary products and supplies;
- Have you evaluated key product designs to determine whether or not your product may benefit from a design patent.
As you are certainly aware there are many more issues and considerations concerning the protection of your intellectual property assets. However, the basic and extremely limited point I wish to convey that the creativity that you put into developing the unique intangible assets that drive your business should also be applied toward the active management and protection of these assets. Set a plan and actively discuss the protection of these critical assets with your corporate counsel.