Intangible assets such as your ideas, inventions, and even creative assets provide substantial value to your brand and the goods or services your business delivers. Your business is different than the rest, and your value proposition is absolutely worth protecting. That’s why businesses of all sizes should consider implementing an intellectual property (IP) strategy – sooner rather than later.
We tuned in to the Bigger Pockets Business Podcast with guest Devin Miller, founder of Miller IP Law, to learn about IP and how businesses today can safeguard some of their most important assets and grow their brand. Here is what we learned.
What Exactly is Intellectual Property?
Intellectual property is an umbrella term for patents, trademarks, and copyrights. In short:
- Patents protect inventions or ideas, both physical and intangible
- Trademarks protect your brand or identity assets such as your logo or catchphrase
- Copyrights protect creative like books, blogs, photos, or movies
Your intellectual property can include a software, a physical object, or even an idea that hasn’t been created yet. However, in order to protect your IP, not just anything can be granted a patent or trademark. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office considers three main identifiers:
- Novelty: Has anyone else invented it? It must be unique.
- Obviousness: No one person created this, but if you put a few different established ideas together to replicate this concept, it’s not patentable.
- Simplicity: Can someone do this in their head? Or on pen and paper? If so, it’s not patentable.
Every organization has IP, but if yours is unique and serves as a major differentiator for your business, you might consider getting a patent or trademark.
Should Your Business Have an Intellectual Property Strategy?
Bulding an IP strategy isn’t just for huge brands that plan to scale into major corporations. Small businesses and startups are encouraged to secure the assets core to their business, too. Many times startups have limited assets, and in that case, it’s even more critical to protect the “intellectual assets” that are getting their businesses off of the ground.
Planning ahead with an IP strategy safeguards your brand from competition or potential replications. It also secures all of the investments you’ve made in your business like time, money, effort, and labor. A great IP strategy is based on the needs not only of the business in the present, but also provides a framework for protecting the business as it grows.
How Intellectual Property Grows Your Business
Being approved for a patent for your product or services guarantees you 20 years to take advantage of your IP in the market. That is a lot of time to get your brand off the ground, when you no longer have to worry about IP theft. Protecting your IP can grow your business by:
- Increasing the appeal and perceived value of your goods or services
- Generating goodwill and a reputation for innovation
- Making your brand appear as the expert in your field
- Acting as a marketing tool to build brand recognition
How It Works
The patent, trademark and copyright process can vary. For example, you can apply for a provisional patent which takes about a month to get approved. A provisional patent buys you one year to test the product. Once the year is up, if you’d like to continue, you’re looking at up to 12-18 months before the process is final.
You can opt to apply yourself to save money, or you can hire an attorney to apply for you. They can help you push your application along faster, with their access to knowledge about what is out there already and what the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is looking for – and the less back and forth, the quicker the process.
Whether you decide to register yourself or hire some help, applying sooner rather than later is the smart move. Technology changes quickly, and you don’t want to miss out on your chance to dominate your market. Similarly, if you wait to apply, and you’ve already built a brand, you’re at risk for someone getting a trademark before you, and now you’re forced to rebrand.
When you protect your intellectual property with a patent or a trademark, you have extra opportunities to monetize your business and what you’re creating – or even to sell your business in the future (if that’s your goal).
You’ve invested a lot of time, money, and development to come up with the next greatest thing in your industry – the last thing you need is someone else coming in to replicate it. Plus, showcasing that your IP was the first in your space grants you strong credibility that helps your business thrive to new heights.