Paying special attention to intellectual property (IP) rights can prove to be an effective strategy for marketing your company’s product or service. When taking a product or service to market, an understanding of IP can help ensure that certain distinguishing factors about your offerings cannot be copied by other businesses.
Using IP effectively can help you create an image for your business that will initiate brand recognition in the market. Establishing ownership of your company’s intellectual property affords you the opportunity to transfer or license that property to other parties for financial gain.
If your product or service hasn’t been taken to the market yet, you should consider using non-disclosure agreements (NDA) to protect your IP. When a potential investor or a business partner signs an NDA, he or she will not be able to reveal any information discussed without legal repercussion; you will then be able to disclose any information you were originally hesitant to share.
In order to make sure your product or service can secure financing, you will need to disclose trade secrets to investors or business partners. An NDA is an agreement that ensures these potential investors or business partners will not share your secrets with competitors. Combining NDAs with other IP protections can help keep your IP safe.
Trademarks, Service Marks and Collective Marks
A trademark (TM) will identify and distinguish your brand and its products or services. Trademarks can consist of words, phrases or symbols. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) protects trademarks so long as their owner maintains and renews the IP with the USPTO. Enforcement of trademark infringements is the responsibility of the owner of the trademark and not the USPTO.
Service marks (SM) are similar to trademarks but are used to denote the source of a service, rather than the product. In some discussions, the term “trademark” might also be used as a catchall phrase that includes service marks.
Ideally, customers will associate your trademark with the desired qualities of your product or service. In order to establish an effective trademark, you will want to create a mark that appeals to your target market. You will also want to research trademarks prior to establishing your own in order to ensure there are no conflicting marks.
Well-known trademarks may command market value and be licensed to other individuals or business entities for an agreed purpose.
When an association or guild wants to identify common characteristics of a product or service, such as geographical origin or mode of manufacture, they may opt to use a collective mark. Association or guild members usually employ a collective mark to designate a good or service as part of the larger guild. In most cases, the enterprises will need to make clear the regulations that must be followed in order to use the collective mark.
A collective mark should not be confused with a certification mark. Certification marks are used by an association to certify goods or services. A popular example would be Good Housekeeping’s Limited Warranty seal.
Using patent protection can be an effective way to protect novel inventions, discoveries and designs; patents, however, do not apply to ideas.
Having a patent will protect you from the competition by preventing others from making, selling or using your invention for a prescribed amount of time. If you wish to file for patent protection, you must apply with the USPTO.
Businesses that don’t have the capacity to commercialize their product can use patents to license inventions and earn royalty revenue. This can save time and money and get your product to market faster.
Copyright protection allows you to protect an expression of an idea, whether published or unpublished. Copyrights apply to literary, dramatic, or artistic works, including poetry, novels, movies, software and more.
You do not need to apply for a copyright, as your protection begins the moment the work is created, but you will need to register your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office if you wish to sue for copyright infringement. Registering can protect your IP by making it a matter of public record.
Taking care of your IP will give you an advantage in the marketplace by making it more difficult for other businesses to offer similar products and services. Carving out your own portion of the market by securing your original ideas, products and images will distinguish and protect your products and services from competitors.