How to Guard Your IP

Is your business built on ideas that need protecting? If you’re developing new software products or producing recordings of your original music, the answer is obviously yes. But suppose you own an accounting firm, a dental practice, or a restaurant? It’s not so obvious, but the answer is still yes. Simply put, any trademark (including “trade dress” or a product’s look and feel), copyright, patent, or trade secret that you own is intellectual property that should be protected.
Clearly, a software firm’s products should be patented and a musician’s songs need copyright protection. But an accountant’s client list is also a trade secret; a dentist’s distinctive logo should be trademarked; and a restaurant’s owner will want to protect the recipe for its secret sauce.

Game Plan

The U.S. government recognizes that small businesses don’t have the resources that large companies have to deal with intellectual property protection. They’ve created a robust website to help you understand the issues and options better.
Another important step you can take is to think about strategies to keep trade secrets and confidential information from leaking out inadvertently. Experts say that some of the steps are quite easy and inexpensive to implement:
  • Stamp key copies of sensitive documents under lock and key, and use password protection for digital files.
  • Restrict access to these materials as much as possible.
  • And have employees sign appropriate non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements.
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