Intellectual property (IP) laws are fairly simple, but are routinely misperceived. This misperception causes people to infringe on other people’s rights unknowingly. Unfortunately, an accidental infringement on your rights carries the same consequences as an intentional infringement.
While you can’t prevent every instance of IP theft, here’s what you can do to safeguard your organization’s intellectual property.
Follow international standards
Innovation requires safeguarding intellectual property. Your ability to secure your company’s IP will drive your competitiveness in the market. To support your efforts, check out the international standards for management related to intellectual property like patents, copyrights, and trademarks.
There are a variety of standards designed to keep your IP secure without sacrificing innovation. For instance, you’ll find ISO standards like 56005:2020, which outlines how to support and protect IP with innovation management.
International technical standards were created to streamline industry processes and create consistency within each industry. While standards aren’t laws, they often incorporate legal requirements into their structures. If you want to secure your company’s IP, don’t skip the IP management standards.
Register your copyrights with the copyright office
You may have been relieved to find out you don’t need to register a work with the copyright office to own the copyright. Copyrights are granted automatically as soon as a work is produced. However, there are benefits to filing with the copyright office.
If you ever need to sue another individual or company for copyright infringement, you’ll need to present official copyright registration documents to the court. If you don’t have the registration at the time of the infringement, you’ll need to get your copyright application approved before you can file a lawsuit. This can be a time-consuming process, so it’s easier to register ahead of time just to be safe.
You don’t need to copyright everything you’ve ever created. The best solution is to register copyrights for anything with a high probability of being stolen. For example, you probably don’t need to register the custom graphics your designer created for your website. While graphics do get stolen all the time, the individuals who steal graphics don’t usually have any money, and if you sue them, you probably won’t collect on the judgment.
Immediately register copyrights for your valuable works that could potentially be stolen by organizations. Register works like training manuals, new hire packets, safety manuals, and IT security policies. Register a copyright for any books, pamphlets, or compilations you’ve created. Generally speaking, register any work that another organization could steal and use as a shortcut in their own business.
Use NDAs, but don’t rely on them for full protection
Think twice before sharing proprietary information with anyone, even under an NDA. Although an NDA binds people to keep information confidential, the risk of someone leaking information is always present.
Instead of liberally sharing your ideas with people who sign NDAs, cut back on how much you share. Share only enough information with each person you’re working with. Don’t share any information with someone you aren’t absolutely certain needs to know about your protected information.
NDAs don’t protect ideas
It’s important to understand that NDAs won’t protect concepts. If you have an idea for a project, making someone sign an NDA before discussing the project won’t protect your idea. Ideas aren’t protected under the law until they are expressed tangibly.
Connect with an IP attorney
The best reason to consult with an IP attorney is to make sure you file for the correct type of protection. You can protect your intellectual property with copyrights, trademarks, and patents. You can also declare something a “trade secret” and use NDAs to keep it protected. However, you must file for the correct type of protection.
IP laws can be confusing. Many people think anything can be copyrighted, including a recipe. However, recipes don’t qualify for copyright protection. A printed copy of a recipe can be copyrighted, but the combination of ingredients and instructions as an idea cannot be copyrighted.
Many recipes are considered a trade secret and held in that status by NDAs. However, it’s perfectly legal to reverse engineer a recipe as long as you don’t violate someone’s trademark.
Only an intellectual property attorney can guide you regarding what protection is appropriate for your IP.
Guard your IP from thieves
Most people don’t understand intellectual property laws and believe they can get away with “borrowing” someone else’s work.
Protect your IP in every way possible from the beginning. Register your copyrights, trademarks, and patents early. Don’t let anyone else profit from your hard work.