Do I have Intellectual Property that I need to Protect?

At a recent business event, I struck up a conversation with another businessperson about intellectual property. As we were talking, she said, “My business doesn’t have intellectual property, I’m just a consultant.”

Rather than tell her she was wrong, I politely asked her if I could see some of the materials she used with clients in her consulting work. After looking at a couple of her blog posts and listening to her description of the business framework she teaches to her clients, I realized that she did not understand intellectual property.

I asked her if she would be angry if another consultant copied the customized consulting documents she created based on her 15 years of experience in the business world. She quickly exclaimed, “Yes, those are my materials! I’ll go after anyone who steals my work.”

That’s a normal response. She spent considerable time, money, and effort to create the unique content she uses in her business. That content is unique because it’s based on her own experiences over the past 15 years and represents the proprietary systems she has created.Continue reading

Intellectual Property Step-By-Step

After working with hundreds of businesses for more than 20 years, I have developed a system to help entrepreneurs and businesses identify and protect their intellectual property assets.

If you are confused about intellectual property, or you think that your business doesn’t have any intellectual property, you’re not alone. Many of my current clients were initially embarrassed because they didn’t know what questions to ask about this topic.

Over time, I have developed a five-step system to help businesses learn about intellectual property and safeguard their valuable assets. After following this system, they better understand intellectual property and how to leverage it to strengthen their business. The five-step system is described below.

1. Understand and Identify Intellectual Property

Intellectual property is commonly defined as a “creation of the mind.” Your intellectual property assets include ideas, inventions, creative works, and innovative thoughts. Here are some examples of intellectual property your business may create:Continue reading

How to Protect the Creative Works in Your Business

Your business produces creative works on a regular basis. For example, the documents, images, website content, blog posts, and PowerPoint slides are creative works generated by you or the team members in your business.

These creative works are valuable to your company when they attract new clients, improve your products or services, and distinguish your business from competitors. You and your team invest time and effort to produce these valuable creations, so you must protect that investment.

Unfortunately, many companies don’t give any significant thought to protecting these business assets. That’s a mistake.

Your creative works represent your company’s intellectual property assets. Here are several things you can do to start protecting those creative works today.

  1. Identify All Creative Works

Before you can take action to protect your creative works, you must first identify them. Your creative works include anything created by you or your team. Examples include written content, images and graphic designs, website content, presentation slides, audio content, and video content.Continue reading

Capturing Your Intellectual Property

Innovative ideas can occur at any time. If you’re like me, some of your best ideas “pop” into your head at the most unexpected times.

These innovative ideas may be important intellectual property assets, so it’s important to capture them quickly. In today’s busy world, we are bombarded with new distractions every minute. A single great idea can make a huge impact on your business. That’s why it is important to implement systems that allow you to catch your intellectual property rapidly before it “escapes your mind.”

For example, it’s important to capture new product ideas, changes to current business processes, new book ideas, inventions, website design changes, and new marketing ideas. These items are important to your business and can set you apart from your competitors.

Here are several ways to be sure you and your team are always prepared to capture your innovative ideas:Continue reading

3 Intellectual Property Mistakes That Put Your Business At Risk

Are you regularly identifying intellectual property (IP) in your business?

If you’re like many entrepreneurs, you might think that you don’t have any IP. You may believe that IP is only for technology companies and large corporations. That’s a mistake.

IP is critical to many businesses in a variety of industries. I have encountered countless situations where IP is the most valuable asset of a business. Here are three common IP mistakes that can put your business at risk.

1. Failing to identify intellectual property

All entrepreneurs and small businesses create IP assets during their day-to-day business operations. Your IP may include creative ideas, artistic works, inventions and trade secrets. Items such as articles, books, marketing materials, website content, product names, company logos, novel product designs and trade secrets are examples of IP assets.Continue reading

$3.5M Intellectual Property Mistake by the U.S. Postal Service

Even big companies can make intellectual property blunders!

Although I’m going to discuss a costly mistake by the U.S. Postal Service, similar mistakes are made by hundreds (probably thousands) of businesses every day!

In previous articles, I have discussed the importance of using images that you have obtained the right to use. This advice applies to everyone, from solo entrepreneurs to the largest companies in the world.

When designing a new stamp several years ago, the U.S. Postal Service used an image on a stamp that they did not have permission to use. That mistake resulted in a $3.5 Million judgment against the U.S. Postal Service.Continue reading

Stop Putting your Most Valuable Assets at Risk

If you’re like most people, you are failing to protect a critical business asset – your intellectual property.

I know what you are thinking, “I’m not in the technology industry, so my business does not have any intellectual property.”

That’s a common, but incorrect, assumption!

When you think of intellectual property, you may envision technology companies and the latest life-changing inventions discussed in the news. That’s perfectly normal!

But, I get puzzled looks when I tell people that entrepreneurs, authors, speakers, thought leaders, coaches, consultants, and all other types of business leaders create intellectual property in the day-to-day operation of their business.

Yes, it’s true!

Every business that’s been in operation for at least a few weeks has created intellectual property.Continue reading

Are you Accidentally Infringing the Intellectual Property Rights of Others?

You’ve probably heard stories about people receiving nasty letters from attorneys representing copyright owners – where the letters are asserting copyright infringement.  Maybe you received one of these letters yourself!

If you’re worried about the images (and other content) you use in your business and don’t want to receive one of those nasty letters, this article will show you how to safely use images and other content on your website and throughout your business.

If you use a copyrighted image without permission, that’s copyright infringement even if it’s “accidental” (you didn’t know the image was protected by a copyright).

Many of the letters I’ve seen for infringing the copyrights associated with photos “invite” the recipient of the letter to pay $2000-3000 to settle the dispute.  Although you may negotiate a lesser amount, it’s a headache and a disruption to your business.Continue reading

Intellectual Property Protection for Entrepreneurs

Yes, your business has intellectual property assets!  If you are an entrepreneur, small business owner, author, speaker, or thought leader, you generate intellectual property from your day-to-day business activities.  It’s not just technology companies that need to protect their intellectual property – you do too.

Intellectual property is commonly defined as a “creation of the mind.”  Your intellectual property assets include ideas, inventions, creative works, and innovative thoughts.  For example, you may have created articles, drawings, website content, audio recordings and video recordings that represent your intellectual property.  And, you may have developed a company logo, product name, or other brand identifier that are intellectual property assets of your business.  Your intellectual property also includes inventions and trade secrets associated with your business.

The following activities will start you on a path to protecting your most important intellectual property.

Discover Your Intellectual Property Assets

Now that you have a basic definition of intellectual property, look for those assets that you have already created.  Evaluate your business frameworks, documentation, product names, inventions and other business creations to generate a list of your intellectual property.  Identify original creative works that were generated from your own ideas or the ideas of your team members.Continue reading

3 of My Favorite Business Books – Have You Read Any of These?

James Altucher once said, “Read every book, blog, website, whatever about what you want to be an expert in.”

When I got my start in the business world, books became some of my best friends. They spoke to me in ways mere humans could not, they were a constant companion when there was no one on the other end of the phone to call, they were there in hotel rooms and on airplanes.

These are some of my recent favorites – so whether you’re looking for a fresh source of inspiration, education, or just plain entertainment, consider checking these out. There are lots of great titles out there, but these have been really meaningful to me.

Book 1: The Introvert’s Edge

This book explains that selling is a skill anyone can learn and master—and introverts are especially good at it once they learn how to leverage their natural strengths. Although the book discusses sales, the systems and principles are useful in any situation. As an introvert myself, I found this book highly useful and I’m applying the systems in my own life.

One of my favorite quotes from this book is:Continue reading