Recently, one of our firm’s clients inquired as to our protecting their intellectual property, and BoltNagi submitted to an in-depth technology audit. Large companies like Google, Microsoft and Apple use considerable resources to protect their intellectual property. An organization of any size, however, can suffer due to intellectual property theft, and small businesses in particular are more vulnerable than well-established companies, as they tend to have more at stake when it comes to new ideas and future projects. Thus, if key intellectual property is stolen, a business could have inadequate resources to defend itself or even lack the ability to continue operations.

For this reason, small businesses need to protect anything that can legally be classified as intellectual property. There are a number of strategies that help you do this, often simply requiring a little knowledge, consultation and creativity.

Learn the basics

Begin with educating yourself and your team on the concepts of trademarks, copyrights, patents and trade secrets. You may search the web for credible articles or read books on these subjects, as well as attend professional seminars or course that deal with these complex issues.

To further your knowledge and receive guidance on how to approach intellectual property protection, consult an attorney with experience in this area. Although this may require some investment from your business, it will be well worth it to ensure your ideas and trade secrets remain protected well into the future.

Take action

Once you have educated yourself and spoken with a business lawyer, immediately begin work on patenting anything that is important to you — or that may be important to a competitor. The quicker you file the better, as patents can take up to five years to complete. Don’t worry if the idea is not fully developed, as you can expand on the initial ideas in your patent for up to a year. Also keep in mind that an American patent protects you in the United States and its territories, but not internationally, so spend some time researching international patents as well.

In addition, work with your attorney to develop a sound non-disclosure agreement for your employees and business partners to sign. Finally, conduct an audit of your company’s intellectual property to help determine your registered and unregistered trademarks and copyrights. Understanding everything you legally own and do not own is critical to protecting yourself from theft.

Remember, the risks are too great to avoid protecting yourself right away, so for the future of your company and its employees, get started developing a plan to secure your intellectual property.

BoltNagi is a widely respected and established corporate and business law firm serving individuals and businesses throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands.