If you own a business, then chances are you own office space, copy machines, desk chairs, etc. The odds are also good that you own intellectual property-AKA, anything that required going through the patent process, obtaining a trademark, a “copyright,” or some other qualification of ownership. Managing intellectual property (or IP) can be complicated, especially in this brave new world where theft of IP is on the rise. Below are a few questions to ask yourself on the way out of the patent filing office to get a sense of whether or not you’re at risk of intellectual property theft:
“Am I a good record keeper?
The more organized you are with your patent information and IP assets, the less chance there is of someone taking what’s yours. Make sure you have a file with any patent information, copyrights, contracts, and other proof that your intellectual property is yours. It is essential that these documents include dates, as a common defense of theft involves claiming that the legal owner didn’t actually create the material “first.”
“Do I know how to use a computer or know someone who does?”
In speaking of records, we understand the lure of keeping everything in your Dropbox or Google drive. However, saving to the cloud is probably not a good idea with patent information and other sensitive documentation. If you’re thinking to yourself “But it’s password protected!” Just remember–Sony was password protected too. You might also be thinking, “Oh posh, who is going to go snooping around the depths of my computer for that copy of the murder mystery on Kennedy that I wrote??!” To that we say: thanks to the power of the internet, nearly 1 in 10 products traded world wide are stolen goods.
“Do I have the resources to hire legal help?”
Bottom line, if you’re a small business without the money to spend on a good intellectual property lawyer, the less chance you have of seeing justice if you’re the victim of IP theft. There are simply too many criminals stealing too many things, and they have the technological savvy to outrun the layman and the law quite often. If you’re just starting out, you might want to think about making a long term goal for your business an emergency legal fund. Otherwise, the best medicine for intellectual property theft is preventative medicine.
Have you or someone you know suffered from intellectual property theft? Are you unsure whether or not to obtain a patent for something you’ve created? Comment below and ask your fellow interested readers. Someone might give you good advice.