Understanding Intellectual Property
As business owners, we need to know the intellectual property we have in our business and how we can use this to our advantage. Sadly, many business owners are unaware that so much intellectual property is on their hands.
What is Intellectual Property?
Intellectual Property is all of the intangible parts that form what you do in your business. These are the things that you can’t feel or touch such as your company name, trademark, systems and processes of how you do what you do, your guides, advertising material checklists, letter and report formats, performance documents, development frameworks, and so much more.
All of these things are intellectual property that a business has but often people don’t realise that these are of value. All the documents you use are a part of it because it’s part of what you do to run your business.
What are the most important type of intellectual property a business owns?
Systems and procedures are probably the most unique thing in every business. Every person in the business has a different way of doing things and managing their workload – and all of these go into the value of the business you’ve built. A procedures manual is a very valuable asset that many business owners don’t have. This should contain the day to day conduct of the business.
Your client list is very, very valuable intellectual property, too. More often than not business owners don’t realise the value of this kind of intellectual property.
How can you protect your intellectual property?
A copyright protects an expression of an idea but does not protect the idea itself or the concepts and ideas behind it. Copyright is automatic, you don’t register it anywhere.
For example, when a book is written, all words are automatically protected by copyright but the ideas behind it are not protected. When you write a checklist, the form is protected but the ideas aren’t.
If you want to register a trademark for your business name you can go through a process with IP Australia and you can register that as long as it’s unique you can have exclusive rights over that trademark.
If you have a process that is really unique and no one else can copy then you might be able to get a patent for that process – they are very difficult to get.
- Writing good employee contracts
The main way to protect your intellectual property is to have good employee contracts because the main persons who may take your IP away from you are your team members when they leave. So that comes back to your employment agreement properly drafted so that they can’t take all that information. And if they do that gives you the ability to go after them for breaching their agreement with you.
- Have everything sorted in one place.
The best way to protect your intellectual property is to have it all sorted in one place which will be the baseline of what you have and you update it as you develop more. And that gives you that protection. People can actually just do it themselves. If they want the extra layer then comes the lawyer to make sure that it can actually be protected moving forward.