Protect Your Ideas
As a business owner, you probably already have or most definitely will come up with great ideas. Afterall, great ideas are what businesses are born from and what sustains them. Great ideas also present the ultimate business challenge that is unavoidable: copycats. In business, you will always have competitors, and it is expected that if you create something original and unique, there may be a chance that your idea will be duplicated in some manner. Although this is true, in most cases competitors try to copy your ideas in likeness and style, but not an exact blueprint because of the fear of them getting called out for it, and to avoid any legal issues.
As a business owner, I recently had an experience where a business copied our product, the design, and even the name! Of course we were taken aback at the audacity since it was someone from our immediate network. What could we really do legally?
Protecting your intellectual property is a major part of running a business because it ultimately protects the foundation of your business. From your brand name, down to the design or formulas of your product, if it’s not protected, someone can and probably will "borrow" it. A federal trademark would have given us the ultimate protection, but what if we didn’t have that? Common Law trademarks are very common in that although they aren’t registered with the highest form of legal protection, they claim that your business is using the identifying mark to represent your business and its products and will often be enough to scare off imitators.
I’m a Business Librarian and wouldn’t consider myself an expert in trademark and copyright law by far, but I know a thing or two having the Business Resource and Innovation Center (BRIC) also serve as one of Pennsylvania's Patent, Trademark & Resource Centers. The resources available there were priceless and helped us to navigate this unfortunate situation.
If you’re a business owner, please learn all you can about protecting your intellectual property to ensure that the brand you create will be protected. You wouldn’t want to do all of that hard work and then hand it to someone else because you didn’t protect it. Do this research and implement necessary protections early on so that you aren’t trying to fix it once a problem arises. You can find everything you need to know about intellectual property protection by visiting our Patent & Trademark Resource Center, as well as the official information source for patents and trademarks, the United States Patent & Trademark Office. Additionally, for original works (think books, poems, art, etc.) visit Copyright.gov.
Monthly Business Tip: Protect your ideas!