What are Intellectual Property Rights and Why Do They Matter?
Have a new business idea you can’t wait to bring to life?
Protecting your idea, or your intellectual property might seem trivial at first. Yet, skipping the protection of your intellectual property could mean major costs in the long run.
One of the most crucial first steps you can take as an entrepreneur in any industry is securing your intellectual property rights.
Asking yourself, “What are intellectual property rights, anyway?” Or maybe “What does IP have to do with my business?”
The simple answer? Everything!
Let’s take a step back. In this article, we’ll discuss the definition of intellectual property and its importance.
What are intellectual property rights?
No matter your business, consider it crucial to protect your intellectual property.
But exactly what are intellectual property rights?
Intellectual property rights refer to rights granted to a person or business over the creations of their minds. They give the creator exclusive rights over the use of the creation for a designated period of time.
What are the types of intellectual property rights?
Intellectual property rights take the form of patents, trademarks, copyright, industrial design rights, and trade secrets.
Intellectual property ranges from art, literature, and music, to entrepreneurial ideas, words, and phrases.
Whether you own a large firm or a bustling startup your intellectual property acts as a central part of growth. Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs remain unsure about why, how, or when to protect their IP.
5 Reasons Why People Hesitate To Make IP Protection a Priority
Many new businesses hesitate to make intellectual property protection a priority.
These reasons include:
- Startups remain a costly endeavor. Entrepreneurs don’t always welcome another cost. They pass on IP protection as it’s not required to run their business.
- Small businesses fail to research the types of protections available for their brand or products (i.e. they are not asking “what are intellectual property rights?”)
- People do not expect others to duplicate their idea.
- They think they don’t need it because their idea may prove unviable.
- People want as low a cost as possible. To achieve low costs they use free or almost free online resources.
Avoiding these steps means limiting your business in the long run. Limiting your business or procrastinating proves more costly in the end.
The Importance of Intellectual Property Rights
We’ve answered the question, “What are intellectual property rights?” Let’s now take a look at why they hold such massive importance for business owners.
Intellectual property generates more than 35% of the total United States economy
Go ahead, read the above sentence one more time.
In 2012, the United States Department of Commerce concluded that intellectual property comprised 35% of the US economy. Intellectual property’s worth reached $5 trillion a year.
This number continues to grow.
IP’s value in the U.S. outweighs the total GDP of any other nation on the planet except China.
The IP industry provides 40 million jobs. 40 million jobs equate to a third of all U.S employment.
It doesn’t stop there.
The weekly salary in these positions averaged 42% higher than in other industries. In some cases, like copyright industries, the wage clocks in at 77% higher.
IP related merchandise comprises 60% of U.S. merchandise exports.
Not convinced yet? There’s plenty more where that came from!
IP and other intangible goods make up 80% of the market value for U.S. public companies
We live in a knowledge economy.
On average, patented products and services make 50% more in returns than unpatented products and services.
Gone are the days where the tangible assets of a corporation dominated the market.
What are intellectual property rights? The next step in maximizing your company’s potential.
What are intellectual property rights? The lifeblood of news in science, business, and the arts.
Every other month we read about copyright infringement in the music industry.
If you post an artist’s work on your personal Instagram have you engaged in fair use? Or have you committed infringement?
Donald Trump played Neil Young’s “Rockin’ In The Free World” on the campaign trail. His team came under fire for failing to gain the proper authorization.
80% of the world’s technical knowledge lives in patent documents.
If you haven’t caught on yet, IP seems to run the modern world. Across industries, people look to IP for protection. For the answer to “What are property rights?” take a brief look at the world around you.
Your business grows because of intellectual property
In the startup world, securing venture capital funding means securing patents.
Software startups, in particular, should pay close attention to their intellectual property. Often, these companies outsource development to cut costs.
61% of software used in most Asian countries suffers from pirating. 58% of software in India suffers the same fate.
When a startup outsources their software development they must protect their intellectual property. This includes the web, apps, or mobile software.
But what about executives in large businesses? Without conversations about intellectual property, you can kiss joint ventures and acquisitions goodbye. Both need clear agreements on IP.
Don’t meet either of these examples? Does your work align more with arts and sciences? Intellectual property rights protect your work, your publications, and writings. These protections extend to your personal brand.
As you can see, the importance of intellectual property rights transcends industries.
Instances Where A Business Owner Does Not Need To Register Their Intellectual Property
The cut and dry response here? There are very few instances where you don’t need to protect your IP.
While you might not need a patent for a product that isn’t new, you may still consider trademarking your brand. Incorporate the trademark into all marketing and product packaging efforts.
This helps differentiate you from competition. So while you may not hold a patent, you remain guarded against others who do.
Let’s say an owner of a mom and pop shop does not plan to expand. This owner also does not care if a business in another state uses the same name. They might not need to register their IP.
But, if a competitor within their state might have other ideas. The competitor of this rival shop may want to expand, enforcing their own IP rights.
Two factors matter here:
- Who used the name in business first
- Who registered the name first
This could result in costly litigation. Protecting you IP early alleviates this risk.
Important Steps To Take To Protect Your Intellectual Property
If you own a business that employs other people, draft a member agreement. A member agreement details that any IP developed by members, shareholders and the like belong only to the company.
Also, consider using non-disclosure and non-competition agreements for trade secrets. This is important when working with employees and independent contractors. Without it, there is not registration or regulation of trade secrets.
Register all your copyrights on written works. This means registering everything from the back- or front- end computer code to a piece of artwork.
A Note On Patent And Copyright Infringement
You may not receive retribution for damages and attorney’s fees if you failed to register your IP before infringement occurs.
Protect your intellectual property early to ensure you avoid extra costs. As soon as you begin to bring an idea to life seek out IP protection.
Examples of when you might apply for patent, trademark, copyright, or trade secret include:
- obtaining licenses at state and federal levels
- securing product production
Each type of intellectual property requires a unique procedure and timing. Consult an attorney to help you best protect your intellectual property rights from infringement.
What Are Intellectual Property Rights? Ask An Attorney
As you can see, any instance of intellectual property holds incredible importance for your brand or product’s viability. Not only must you protect your intellectual property but you must do it the right way.
An attorney can help you comb through existing rights to brands. They can also conduct a conflict search through the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office’s database.
An attorney will help determine if your business is patent viable. If not, they’ll show you how to protect your intellectual property through other means.
Should infringement occur, your attorney remains by your side.
What Are Intellectual Property Rights: A Summation
What are intellectual property rights? The insurance of your ideas. They help you rest assured your property remains safe.
Think of them as oil in the gears of our knowledge economy. Without them, the machine cannot run.
IP rights apply to everyone. They transcend industries. They work for creators in art, science, and business alike.
Many entrepreneurs consider them an extra, unnecessary cost. This is short-sighted. Thinking this way costs your company in the long run.
Even if your idea does not prove patent-worthy, use notice symbols to let the public know you’re aware of your rights. This sends a message that you will enforce your rights when needed.
You now know what intellectual property rights entail and why they’re essential. Your next move? Protect your intellectual property the right way.