Our most recent workshop, in partnership with the Alameda County Small Business Development Center (Alameda County SBDC), presented tips on how to safeguard a business’ intellectual property (IP) and featured speaker IP Legal Strategist Soody Tronson. According to Tronson, IP is any “product” of your brain, including new ideas, discoveries, and concepts. It’s really the heart of an entrepreneur’s business. Unfortunately, many startups do not spend the time or money to protect their IP, leaving their businesses vulnerable.

So what’s the key to protecting IP? Tronson says it varies depending on the type. It’s most important to determine what type of IP your business has. Common examples include:

  • Patents (i.e., new inventions)
  • Trademarks (i.e., distinctive identification)
  • Copyrights (i.e., music, plays, original creative material, etc.)
  • Trade Secrets (i.e., valuable information not known to the public)
  • Registered Design (i.e., external appearance)

Most companies have a business plan — a roadmap showing where they’ll be in the next few years in spending and revenue. IP should play a key role in the business plan. It needs to be defined, protected, grown, and used. If companies have multiple types of IP, multiple protections need to be in place.

As a business grows, its IP may change. Look at protecting not only the IP that exists right now, but also what might come in the future.

The good news is that there are some local resources for understanding and protecting IP, including the Tech Futures Group through the Alameda County SBDC and the Silicon Valley U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in San Jose. A seasoned IP attorney with knowledge of the various types of IP can help you determine which strategies are needed to protect your core business.