If you operate a business, you have intellectual property. Simply put, intellectual property is any commercial information that you possess, which gives you an economic advantage over your competitors.
When people think of intellectual property, the first thing that comes to mind is a patent, trademark, or copyrights. However, most of the commercial assets that you possess cannot be patented, trademarked, or copyrighted.
An area that many business owners often fail to consider is called “trade-secrets”, which is the fourth type of intellectual property. So, going back to the definition again, what are assets that you possess in your business that can give you a competitive edge over competitors?
Here are some examples of trade-secrets that almost all businesses possess, and often overlook.
1. Customer and email lists.
2. Customer identities.
3. Marketing strategies.
4. Consultant/vendor identities.
5. Key buyers/purchasing persons.
6. Price lists and customer preferences.
7. Customer outreach approaches.
8. Cash reserves needed to stay competitive.
9. Forecasts, budget, and resource allocations.
10. Employee identities.
11. Employee salaries, benefits, commissions.
12. New projects and business developments.
13. Negotiation strategies and sales scripts.
14. Source of products, services, supplies.
15. Source of advertising creatives and development.
Think of anything that will give your business a competitive advantage in your market — something that involves a certain degree of secrecy and confidentiality. Your business is an extension of you, it contains your life’s work. Think about how you can protect your “trade-secrets” from all sides of the table.
You have spent hundreds, if not thousands of hours, thinking of a name, researching about competitors, finding vendors, suppliers, marketers, consultants, and maybe even financiers for your business — it’s worth understanding how you can protect these assets from competitors or even employees or consultants who run of risk of becoming competitors.
Are my business assets and trade-secrets protected from competitors, employees, vendors, suppliers, or even consultants? The key term that you want to keep in mind is “economic value”, which only exists in a commercial setting.
In other words, if your employee who has access to your customer lists, quits, and enters into the same industry, and engages with the same customers, then that’s something that could be considered a trade secret. Imagine how you would feel if you found out that had happened. It can jeopardize everything you’ve worked toward.
Here are the steps to ensure your intellectual property, specifically trade secrets, are adequately protected from all angles.
1. Make a list of all the different “business assets” that you possess (Use the list above as a reference point).
2. Clearly identify and “list” the different intellectual property that you possess in your business.
3. Re-visit your business plan, your website, your contracts, your agreements, and other documents that relate to any of the IP you have listed down.
4. Where required, think about how you would like to protect these trade-secrets, from whom you would like to protect them, and what changes you need to make in your current documents, if any, to ensure your secrets are adequately protected.
5. Where required, seek out an attorney who understands business and IP law and get them to draft or re-draft some of the terms, and/or the contract itself.
6. If you believe you have a patent, trademark, or copyright, research more about it, and seek out an attorney, if required.
7. Make brand, business, and IP protection a priority for everyone you work with.
Well, both lists I have provided for you above are NOT exhaustive, but they are a good starting point if you have not thought about protecting some of these areas that can be considered “trade secrets” in your business.
Hope this article helps you to take action and get serious about your brand, business, and IP protection strategies.
Remember, your business is your life’s work — ensure you take the adequate steps to protect your assets from all sides because small mistakes can have large consequences, especially in business.
This article initially appeared on sidpeddinti.com
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