Protecting Your Intellectual Property
After working long and hard to develop your products and services, your client list and business plan, your trademark and trade name, you do not want to have them walk out the door or become diluted. You need a plan to protect your intellectual property.
Trade secrets are one aspect of intellectual property that you need to affirmatively protect. Trade secrets can include:
- Your business plans
- Client lists
- Technical and non-technical data
- Business methods
- Financial data
They can be classified as trade secrets if they meet two criteria: (1) by accessing them, others (such as your competitors)could gain economic value and (2) you have taken reasonable efforts to maintain their secrecy or confidentiality.
You not only need to determine what your trade secrets are, but you also need to take steps to maintain their secrecy. These measures might be as simple as keeping your data in a locked file drawer with limited access or might require more detailed efforts such as non-disclosure agreements and covenants not to compete for your key employees and suppliers written so that the agreements can be enforced. If there is a possibility of your trade secrets becoming public, you need to know how to prevent this from happening.
A trademark is a name, symbol, or other unique identification associated with your product or service. Your company has spent valuable time, effort, and money to build a brand name or develop a new name for a product launch. You need to protect that investment with a trademark registration. You also need to protect that trademark from being diluted or used by others who can capture your trademark with a click of the mouse on the Internet or use your trademark in their metatags, misdirecting your potential customers to their sites.
The materials that you create in words, pictures, video, audio and other means may be protected by copyright. On the Internet, your copyrighted material could be captured by others and used without your permission. You need to know how to protect your original materials and to enforce your copyright under the United States Copyright Act, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and international protocols and treaties such as the Berne Convention.