If your brand’s intellectual property has been stolen, your best bet is to hire a commercial lawyer to mount the best legal defense for you. However, if you haven’t fallen into such troubled waters yet, then your best offense is a great defense. That means understanding how to safeguard your valuable ideas and innovations.
Below are five tips for doing so:
1. Use patents, copyrights, and trademarks
Patents, copyrights, and trademarks are all useful legal ways to protect your brand’s ideas and innovations.
A patent safeguards a business’s inventions—software, processes, designs, and the like—from being produced and sold by others. It may take a while to secure (up to a few years), but once obtained, it allows you to stop others from replicating your inventions.
Copyrights are similar, but they protect your intellectual property (IP). Ideas themselves can’t be copyrighted, but books, videos, software, and other expressions of an idea can. Doing so gives you exclusive rights to your IP.
Join Our Small Business Community
Get the latest news, resources and tips to help you and your small business succeed.
Lastly, trademarks associate a product or service with a specific company, such as Apple’s half-eaten apple or Nike’s memorable swooshy tick. If another company tries to use those designs, they’ll incur a hefty trademark infringement penalty.
2. Time-stamp your ideas
Time-stamping your ideas is a great way to safeguard them from anyone who might seek to dispute their origin. By starting a paper trail, you can document when you developed the idea. This process doesn’t have to be too sophisticated. A simple email to yourself outlining your main ideas is enough. Set it aside in a safe place. If your idea is more complex, draft up and time-stamp a document explaining your idea or innovation in further detail.
3. Communicate securely and use VPNs
Hackers are exceptionally skilled, sophisticated, and highly motivated to steal—especially if your company has a great idea. To prevent that from happening, download and use a secure messaging app such as Telegram or Signal. These will greatly reduce the likelihood of a data breach.
Alongside these apps, consider using virtual private networks (VPNs) for secure internet connections. VPNs help prevent data interception and deter hackers by rerouting network activity to another server, often one in a city or country far away. It’s best to go for well-known VPNs to mitigate any risks and to prioritize speed over global coverage.
4. Spread the word about your idea
After you legally protect your idea and create a paper trail, the next step is to educate the public and seek out financial support. You can start by developing a dedicated website that everyone can access. Although it’s true that not all ideas should be rapidly shared, most benefit from it. Not only does it spread your idea, but it can also strengthen your claims for legal protections like patents, trademarks, or copyrights.
5. Get everyone involved
Controlling your brand’s ideas and innovations is a team effort. It’s not something one person can do alone. Instead, it’s something all employees and business partners need to be on board with. Sometimes, this requires training in how to use VPNs and secure messaging apps properly. Other times, it’s agreeing to a simple set of rules to follow when discussing ideas with outsiders. Whatever specifics are needed, getting everyone on board is a surefire way to reduce risks and protect your valuable ideas.
Intellectual property theft of innovative ideas can be devastating to a brand’s reputation and ability to thrive in a highly competitive world. Thankfully, you can sidestep this pitfall by following the above five tips. If it does happen, don’t hesitate to seek legal help.