3 Things You Must Do To Protect Your Intellectual Property

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Intellectual property is the life blood of many small businesses and entrepreneurial enterprises.  Knowing how and what may need protection could mean the difference between success and failure.  I set forth below three basic things every entrepreneur and business person should do to protect the intellectual property inherent in any organization.

1.         Identify your intellectual property

Before you can protect your intellectual property assets, you need to understand what they are.  Intellectual property is a bundle of legal rights.  These consist essentially of patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets.  Patents are directed primarily to objects of manufacture (things), methods of making or doing something, designs (ornamental aspects of a thing), compositions of matter and plants.   If you make devices or compositions of matter, you will likely want to determine whether your device, composition, or methodologies associated with your business may be subject to patent protection.   If you make an object, you may also want to consider whether there are any ornamental aspects of your object that may be new and subject to design patent protection.

If you use trademarks, service marks or logos in connection with the sale of your goods or services, you may want to register those marks or logos nationally or internationally.  If your business involves training or educational services, any materials used may be subject to copyright protection.  If your business has been successful by using particular strategies or processes that have given it a competitive edge over your competition, you may want to properly identify those strategies as trade secrets.  Some methodologies used in manufacturing may be better suited to trade secret protection rather than patent protection. 

2.         Determine whether your intellectual property can be protected

Once you have identified what you believe to be your intellectual property, you need to determine whether it is protectable under current laws.  If you believe your new widget is patentable, a patentability search and assessment is a logical next step.  A patentability search and assessment will provide you with the information you need to determine whether there is any meaningful patent protection available to you.  This applies to objects, as well as methods, compositions of matter, and designs.  A proper patentability search will search all relevant patent records and provide you with the most pertinent documentation of the state of the relevant art.  A patent professional can assist with interpreting the search results to determine the scope of patent protection likely available to your invention.

Similarly, with a trademark or logo, an availability search and assessment is a prudent next step.  This involves searching relevant records to provide you with current uses of the same or similar marks or logos.  From this information, you can determine whether to proceed with a trademark or service mark registration.  A trademark professional can help you make that determination. 

3.         Protect What Intellectual Property You Can

Once you have identified and determined what rights are available to you, you can proceed with protecting your intellectual property to maximize your competitive advantage.  Patentable aspects of any objects, methods, compositions or designs should be protected.  Marks or logos available for use and registration should be the subject of US or international trademark or service mark applications.   

Copyrighted materials should be marked with the “©” or “Copyright” followed by the year(s) in which the material was created and name of the owner.  Trade secrets, properly identified, should be protected through a series of procedures identified by your organization to ensure confidentiality.  This may include, by example, limiting access to certain information, marking documents as “confidential”, ensuring all employees understand their obligations to maintain secrecy of proprietary information, executing confidentiality agreements with third parties where proprietary information may be exchanged.

Protecting your innovative developments is critical to any organization.  Having the right person to help you make that decision is important.  The Law Office of Kathleen Lynch PLLC is designed to help businesses such as yours keep ahead of the game.   The first telephone consultation is free.  Email us at klynch@kliplaw.com.



Recently, one of my clients asked me about the pros and cons of marking “patent pending” on his invention.  I advised him that I thought he should mark his invention and here’s why.

First, it puts others on notice that you intend to protect your invention with a patent.  That means that if the patent covering your product issues, then others will need to assess whether they infringe your patent, if they use, make, sell, or offer for sale the product as described in the issued patent.

Second, while marking “patent pending” has no legal effect, when and if the patent issues, display of the patent number does impact your legal rights.  Failure to mark your invention, once a patent issues, will prevent you from collecting damages until you either begin marking or you give actual notice of patent infringement.

Third, if you are putting others on notice that your product may be patentable, that may be advantageous when talking to investors or potential licensees.  If your product becomes protected via a patent, then you have exclusive rights to exploit your patent for a period of 20 years from the date of filing.  This may be a significant business advantage depending on the area of technology and existing business environment. 

Finally, patent marking can be done either physically on the product itself or virtually.  Virtual marking requires a website where information on patented products for your organization can be found.  This saves in retooling time and expense.  In addition, changes to the website can be done quickly and easily to maintain a complete and accurate record of all patents covered by your company. 

Protecting your innovative developments is critical to any organization.  Having the right person to help you make that decision is important.  The Law Office of Kathleen Lynch PLLC is designed to help businesses such as yours keep ahead of the game.   The first telephone consultation is free.  Email us at klynch@kliplaw.com.





The United States Patent and Trademark Office is hosting its 16th Annual Independent Inventor Conference on August 15-16, 2014 at its offices in Arlington Virginia. The conference will enable independent inventors and small business owners to learn about the patent system, as well as network with other entrepreneurs and inventors. 

Senior level officials from the USPTO and others will present information on patents, trademarks, and other intellectual property (IP) matters.  In addition, experienced business owners and inventors will relate their personal perspectives in bringing their dreams to market. Governmental and business development entities will discuss commercial best practices and the various resources offered by their organizations. Each attendee will have an exclusive opportunity to meet one-on-one with a USPTO expert or IP professional of his or her choice, as well as hear keynote addresses from major figures in the entrepreneurial world.

Attendees will also be able to choose from a variety of panels and breakout sessions that address specific intellectual property topics relevant to the modern inventor and small business owner. These sessions include hands-on workshops on patent and trademark application filing, prior art searching, and recent changes in legislation that affect business owners and inventors, among many other topics.

So if you are in the DC area, this looks like a great event for any entrepreneur or small business owner.