Your business’ intellectual property (IP) portfolio is a valuable asset. It includes:
- your brand;
- any artistic or written work; and
- any unique features of your product or service.
Your brand is key to growing your business, as it allows customers to identify your products and refer them to others. Failing to protect this part of your business can become an expensive problem down the track. This article outlines five ways you can protect your intellectual property.
Conduct a Trade Mark Audit
Firstly, it is important to make sure that your business’ branding is protected. You may want to check this by conducting a trade mark audit. Start by making a list of all the different branding you use in your business. Your branding might include logos, taglines and your brand name.
Once you have a list of all the branding elements you use to promote your business, look at which of them are already protected by a trade mark. You should consider how your branding promotes your goods or services. Finally, check which parts of your brand are not yet protected by a trade mark and decide if they need to be. If you plan to start selling internationally within the next 18 months, think about protecting your brand overseas.
Consider Whether You Have Other Intellectual Property to Protect
Your business may also use less obvious types of IP to define your brand.
Look into what your business can or should be protecting. Perhaps your business:
- uses an innovative new process;
- sells products with unique design elements;
- has recently developed a new and innovative product; or
- shares confidential information with third parties.
Generally, copyright automatically protects all content created by your business. If you are dealing with confidential client information, check whether a non-disclosure agreement or client agreement protects that information.
Review Your Business’ Online Presence
You should secure any relevant social media handles and domain names. Start by googling your business. The search results show you how your business will look to new customers. This first impression of your brand may be your only chance to secure their business.
Keep track of your online footprint. Try to use consistent handles across each platform. Consistency online gives your business credibility and makes your business easier to find. Check your business’:
- Facebook page;
- Twitter; and
- any other online platforms you use.
In addition to your social media handles, check which domain names your business owns and keep track of your URLs. Holding several URLs (such as the .com, com.au and .net versions of your domain name) prevents domain squatting. Domain squatting, or cybersquatting, refers to the practice of registering unclaimed domain names in the hope of selling them for profit. By registering all your URLs, you can prevent others from registering them and attempting to sell them to you later.
Audit Your Enforcement
Protecting your intellectual property takes more than registering a trade mark or a design. Look out for activity outside your business that might cause confusion or weaken your brand. Regularly check IP Australia’s trade marks register, social media and Google search results for any businesses that use similar branding to your own. You can also look for businesses with products or services like yours.
If you think somebody is infringing on your intellectual property, you can bring an action against them in court or lodge a complaint to protect your brand.
Protect Confidential Information
Make sure that your business’ confidential information is protected. You should always have appropriate contracts in place with employees and contractors that protect any shared sensitive business information. The type of contract you need depends on whether it binds an employee or a contractor.
These are signed by employees and should include confidentiality clauses that bind your employees and set out the consequences for breaching the clause.
Independent Contractor Agreements
These are signed by contractors and should include what happens to any IP used or created by the contractor.
It can be easy to forget about to protect your business’ IP. However, maintaining a strong brand is key to growing your business. You can protect your IP by:
- conducting a trade mark audit;
- considering whether you have other IP to protect;
- reviewing your online presence;
- auditing your enforcement practices; and
- protecting confidential information.
If you would like to have a discussion about your business’ IP or have any legal questions, contact LegalVision’s IP lawyers on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page.
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