When intellectual property is discussed in a business context, the story usually revolves around two or more titans of the corporate world battling it out in the courts over cases worth millions.
Because of this, it can seem like only big firms need to worry about protecting their IP, when in reality it should be a concern for organizations of all shapes and sizes.
Here is a look at why IP matters to small businesses in particular, and what can be done to defend a firm’s most valuable intellectual assets.
Understanding the basics
IP is a multifaceted term which covers a number of different elements, the most commonly discussed and significant of which are trademarks you hold over your company name and logo, copyrights you hold over creative works and patents you apply to protect your unique inventions and innovations.
In the case of both trademark and copyright-based IP, the law affords you automatic protection as soon as you either start using your aforementioned business’ identifiers, or you create the work in question. Patents are different in that they involve a complex and costly application and approval process, but are nevertheless necessary in some cases.
International implications are increasingly relevant
We live in a global age, with digital technologies like ecommerce bringing brands to new parts of the world far faster than ever before.
This brings with it a range of challenges to go alongside the impressive opportunities, one of which is of course the increased vulnerability of your precious IP.
Part of the problem is that you need to make sure that your trademarks are registered, patents enforced and copyrights recognized in whichever countries you expect to sell your goods and services to. This is where taking advantage of a trademark registration company can really ease the strain, and free you from the hassle of doing every single application separately.
Infringement is inevitable
Even small brands can be subject to IP infringement, and this can take many shapes and forms. At a minimally harmful level, a rival might use somewhat similar branding or imagery, whether accidentally or deliberately, resulting in customer confusion. Having trademarks helps give minnows the ability to take on whales in such a scenario, and win.
More problematic still is the rise in counterfeit products which are being produced and distributed as if they are genuine. Made in distant nations, then imported and sold to domestic audiences, this can compromise the reputation of businesses quickly, as phoney goods are almost always of a lower quality than would normally be acceptable.
If small businesses have not taken precautionary steps to make their IP defensible, then it is always going to be tougher to take counterfeiters to task over their harmful activities.
Planning for the future is sensible
Small businesses should have big ambitions, and the only way to fulfill them effectively is to plan ahead and plot out the path that your company will take on its climb to the top.
Caring about your IP and doing what you can to keep this seriously valuable asset safe should be a priority for any organization that understands how actions taken today can pay dividends further down the line.
So while it may not seem like you need to register trademarks internationally or get your copyrights recorded officially at this precise point in time, if you do this sooner rather than later, you will be saving yourself from a whole host of potential headaches that might otherwise arise as your brand gains traction.
IP may seem like a tricky topic to tackle as a small business, but it is very much time well spent if you have sizable aspirations.