Intellectual Property

Intellectual property may be the most valuable part of a business. In many cases this value goes unprotected and is lost. There are three basic types of intellectual property. Each can be protected in one or more ways. The first type of intellectual property is an invention. An invention is a new and unique product, or a new and unique method of solving a problem. There are two ways to protect an invention. The technical knowledge can be protected with patent rights, or kept secret as a trade secret. Sometimes businesses are not aware of inventions within their own company. This results in loss of market share and lost revenue opportunities for licensing.

A second type of intellectual property is goodwill. Goodwill is associated with a company’s brand of product or service. Goodwill is built by advertising, networking, satisfying customers, referrals, news articles, sponsorships, and other public relations activities. The goodwill exists in the minds of the consumer as they consider purchasing products or services that are associated with a brand. Goodwill in a name or symbol can be protected with trademark rights. Many small businesses spend time and money on building goodwill in a brand name without first determining if their trademark rights conflict with existing brands. When a business builds goodwill in a brand and then discovers there is a conflict with an existing brand, they may lose millions of dollars in lost revenue from the cost of building goodwill in a new brand name.

A third type of intellectual property is the content of writings and works of art. Valuable content is found in books, songs, music, movies, pictures, sculptures, websites, articles, computer programs, and other writings or works of art. The value in the content is usually the ability of the content to inspire, inform, instruct, and entertain. This value is protected by copyright rights. Many businesses have employees that do not understand the value of content they are producing, and therefore do not protect this value with copyright rights. Often businesses or individuals obtain content without a proper license under copyright rights, which can cost millions of dollars in attorney fees and damages.

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