Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Intellectual Property: Tips on How to Protect Your Business Online

Intellectual property is anything that you or your business creates that is the property of your business. Each of the super heroes in the smash hit movie, Avengers, are the intellectual property of Marvel Comics. This means you can’t use The Hulk to advertise your spring sale. When you or your company creates a piece of intellectual property whether it’s a slogan, a character, a recipe or logo you are well within your rights to make sure that property is protected. In this age of social media networking, keeping up with that protection can become a challenging and full-time job. The following are some insightful tips on how you can protect your intellectual property and what to do when someone steals it.

·         Patent, Trademark, and/or Copyright First

You really can’t make a claim against someone who is using your intellectual property unless you first register that property. This will require filing an official trademark or copyright application for your property. A trademark protects your company information from being used by another company. Going back to the Avengers example, the next Batman movie can’t have Spiderman in it because those are two separately trademarked characters and can only be used with permission from the trademark owner. Copyriting typically applies to a work that you intend to publish like a story, article or photo. These can also be created by your business as a way of promotion but can’t be used by other companies unless you give them permission. A lawyer who is familiar with these types of laws can advise you as to which is the best application to file for protection.

·         IP Monitoring

If you are serious about protecting your intellectual property then you’re going to have to invest into some time into monitoring your brand to see if your property is being inappropriately used. This isn’t just about checking into Facebook once a day, but instead dedicating time to conduct comprehensive searches across all kinds of social networking sites and other web portals.

·         Decide If Your Have Been Infringed Upon

Suppose your company creates a brand icon like the Pillsbury Doughboy. After trademarking this icon, it becomes very popular and begins popping up as people’s profile picture or on their blogs. Is that real infringement? Is your business being damaged? Your reputation being tarnished? Only you can make that call but just because someone might be using your icon or other intellectual property in the vast outreaches of cyberspace doesn’t mean your business will suffer. On some level, you can’t realistically chase down every infringement. You have to pick your battles wisely.

·         Taking Action

When it has been determined that your intellectual property is indeed being misused then you can take appropriate legal action. The first would be a cease and desist order. This would be a legal letter sent from your company’s attorney informing the user that they need to stop using your intellectual property immediately. Once you’ve put them on notice and they still keep using the property, you can sue them for trademark or copyright infringement. Proving damages in court can be tricky and costly for you. Often, the cease and desist order will do the trick.