Intellectual Property Protection Should Be a Core Priority
Intellectual property protection is essential, especially to a technology-based business that has most of its value in the intellectual property it has invented, developed or produced. IP piracy and theft cost US companies billions of dollars each year, whether the issue is stolen technology, a copied invention, software infringement, unauthorized software use by businesses and governments, bootlegged films and music downloaded without authorization or knocked off Rolex watches.
The United States government webpage stopfakes.gov makes several very clear and simple points about IP protection and highlights why an intellectual property lawyer is important both while setting up IP protection such as filing for copyrights, trademarks, or patents, and further down the road when IP may actually be threatened.
The first thing a firm needs to do is evaluate the IP it has and take measures to establish the best possible protection plan for its most valuable assets. Then, it needs to take stock of all the different countries where it does business. While copyright protection is virtually automatic in most countries through the operation of the Berne Convention on the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works once a copyright is registered with the United States Copyright Office, trademarks and patent rights must be established separately in each country, although there are certain treaties that facilitate multiple registrations (e.g., Madrid Protocol and the Patent Cooperation Treaty or PCT).
A good IP lawyer can help you plan your strategy for protecting your company’s crown jewels, its intellectual property assets. He or she can then file applications for the necessary registrations (copyright, trademark, patent) in the United States, and should be able to facilitate the process in other countries as necessary. This seems like an obvious step but many people and companies with proprietary software code, websites, processes, ideas or designs neglect to pay enough attention to these concerns early in the process and pay the price later as a result, when other companies have either appropriated their intellectual property or otherwise taken advantage of their failure to protect it. Anyone whose company’s value lies in part in its intangible assets, which in fact would include most companies at least respect to brands/trademakrs, should take early steps to find an appropriate attorney and being implementing a strategy of application for registration and appropriate confidentiality agreements. It is easy and can ensure that the necessary value can be extracted from your intellectual property later.
Once a company has taken those first steps and inventoried its intellectual property assets, it is important to figure out what legal protection to seek. It is often worthwhile to hire an outside firm to conduct a full IP audit, which will asses vulnerabilities, modify internal processes to protect IP, and suggest further proactive measures. But after preventative measures have failed and IP has been compromised, an IP lawyer can be a great help in remedying the problem and addressing third party infringement.
In the United States, if a company has registered its copyrights, trademarks and patents, the IP owner is in a good position to protect the company against infringement. Normally a firm such as Neff Law Firm begins with cease and desist letters. That can be followed with civil action if necessary. In case of bad-faith domain name appropriation, Neff Law Firm has commenced international proceedings—successfully—to recover domain names from cybersquatters, using the UDRP procedures. Registering IP is the best way to guarantee a successful legal outcome.