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7 Ways To Protect Your Intellectual Property in 2019

A strong intellectual property (IP) portfolio is critical for technology companies to maintain a competitive advantage and drive company growth.  Here are seven ways to protect your IP and strengthen your IP portfolio.

  1. Identify Your Intellectual Property Assets. You can’t take steps to protect your IP until it is identified.  Create systems that discover these assets as part of your day-to-day operations.
  2. Consider All Types of Intellectual Property Protection. Learn how to use all four types of IP (patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets) to secure those assets.
  3. Use Provisional Patent Applications to Quickly Protect Inventions. Establishing an early filing date for your invention is important in the United States.  Provisional patent applications offer fast and cost-effective protection of important inventions.
  4. Protect the Right Inventions. A valuable IP portfolio includes patents covering core technology as well as future ideas and inventions that are important to competitors.
  5. Watch Out for Public Disclosure. Implement systems to identify important inventions (so you can secure your patent rights) prior to public disclosure, such as trade shows, white paper publications, and press releases.
  6. Use Proper Agreements to Ensure Ownership of Your Intellectual Property. Use signed agreements that require all employees and contractors to assign IP rights to the company.  Promote the use of non-disclosure agreements and confidentiality agreements throughout your organization.
  7. Develop An Innovation Culture. Encourage all team members to spend time on innovative activities, which creates a steady stream of new ideas and fosters a strong work environment.

Are you ready to create a plan to strengthen your IP portfolio?  Apply for a complimentary IP Strategy Session where we will review your current IP portfolio and identify actions you can take to strengthen your IP protection.  Apply for your complimentary IP Strategy Session at IPStrategySession.com.

Don’t believe these 5 Intellectual Property Myths!

I have a long list of Intellectual Property Myths I have created over the past 20 years. Some of these myths are silly and others are dangerous because they can have a negative impact on your business.

Today I’m putting on my “Myth Busters” hat to debunk five of those myths – focusing on the ones that can harm your business.

Here’s my countdown of the five worst offenders:

5. Intellectual property is too expensive

4. Intellectual property is too complicated

3. I don’t have enough time to protect my intellectual property

2. Intellectual property is just for technology companies and large corporations

And, the #1 worst offender…

1. My business doesn’t have any intellectual property (Ugh! I can’t even type that sentence without cringing!)

Let me address these myths in the order I listed them above.

5.  Intellectual property is too expensive. Yes, intellectual property can be expensive if you don’t take a smart approach. But, too many people ignore taking action to protect their intellectual property because they think it’s too expensive. You don’t have to pay an intellectual property attorney $2500 or more to understand the fundamentals of intellectual property. There are many activities you can do yourself to begin protecting your creative works. And, the cost of failing to protect your intellectual property can mean losing your business when a competitor steals your creative work!

Don’t use price as an excuse. In a recent article, I outline my 5-Step System to identify and protect your intellectual property assets. Read that article (it’s free!) to start understanding how you can protect your creative work. Here’s a link to the article: https://stevesponseller.com/intellectual-property-step-by-step/

4.  Intellectual property is too complicated. This is similar to #5 above. Intellectual property does not have to be complicated. Yes, there are certain aspects that are complex like litigation and patent applications related to the latest technological advancements. In those situations, you need an attorney to help navigate the intricacies of intellectual property law. But, those are uncommon situations for most businesses.

The majority of day-to-day activities that protect your creative works do not require an attorney. Read the article I mentioned above to see how simple some of the activities are to protect your intellectual property.

3.  I don’t have enough time to protect my intellectual property. If you read the article above, you’ll see that many activities can be done in 10-15 minutes. If you can’t find 10-15 minutes a few times a week to protect your most valuable assets, then your business has bigger problems. If you start with small blocks of time you can begin making progress and create a habit of automatically identifying and protecting your creative content.

Don’t use time as an excuse. You can’t afford not to spend time on this important activity. If someone steals your intellectual property because you didn’t spend the time to protect it – no amount of time can bring it back.

2.  Intellectual property is just for technology companies and large corporations. I know that technology companies are often highlighted in the news and large corporations like Apple and Google regularly mention their intellectual property. But, every business has intellectual property – not just the ones you see in the news.

For many technology companies, intellectual property (especially patent protection) is critical to their business. These companies spend huge amounts of money to develop new technology and rely on patents to prevent competitors from stealing their inventions.

But, intellectual property is much broader than just patents and extends to all types of businesses in any industry or market- see the discussion of Myth #1 below for more details.

1.  My business doesn’t have any intellectual property. Your intellectual property includes your creative work (such as blog posts, PowerPoint slides, website content, and audio/video recordings), brand identifiers (like your company name, company logo, and product names), inventions, and trade secrets. If you’ve been in business for more than a few weeks, you do have intellectual property, regardless of the product or service you offer. If you currently believe this myth, please read the article mentioned above to begin identifying the many intellectual property assets you (or your team) have already created.

Stop using these myths as excuses. You spend a significant amount of time and money generating your creative content and other intellectual property. These are valuable business assets that are important to protect. Don’t let any of the 5 myths discussed above prevent you from taking steps to identify and protect your intellectual property.

Get started by reading the article I mentioned above at: https://stevesponseller.com/intellectual-property-step-by-step/

Today is a perfect day to start protecting your creative content and other intellectual property assets.

Want more help protecting your intellectual property? Download my Free Content Protection Guide at http://ContentProtectionGuide.com

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.

That’s the definition of intellectual property.

But, since she didn’t think of her content as intellectual property, she wasn’t taking steps to protect her unique content. For example, there were no copyright notices or trademark notices on any of her materials or website.

One thing I told her to do differently was to put a copyright notice on all of her creative content. This is a simple activity, but clearly identifies her as the copyright owner.

She was a little embarrassed when I explained that she did have intellectual property in her business. Although she is a successful business consultant, she was never taught about intellectual property.

This is common.

Many experienced consultants, coaches, speakers, trainers, entrepreneurs, and business leaders don’t think intellectual property applies to their business activities. She was relieved to know that she’s not the only business consultant who had ignored their intellectual property.

She is now a client and we are working through my five-step system to identify and protect all of her intellectual property assets. She understands that her articles, videos, presentation slides, website content, product names, and company logo are all intellectual property assets critical to her successful business.

Most importantly, she now has Peace of Mind knowing that her intellectual property assets are safe – and she can focus on growing her business.

For many entrepreneurs and small businesses, intellectual property is their most valuable asset. Failing to protect these assets can ruin their business.

I’m sharing this story because I see this problem frequently. Too many people think intellectual property is only relevant to technology companies and large corporations.

In fact, any business that’s been around for at least a few weeks has already created intellectual property that needs to be protected.

Your intellectual property assets are critical to your business. Start taking action to protect these assets just as you would any other valuable asset.

Need help protecting your intellectual property? Download my Free Intellectual Property Checklist at http://MyIPchecklist.com

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:

  • articles
  • drawings
  • marketing materials
  • website content
  • PowerPoint slides
  • audio recordings
  • video recordings

You may have developed a company logo, product name, or other brand identifier associated with your business as well.

Once you understand the basic definition of intellectual property, and the examples mentioned above, start identifying those intellectual property assets in your business. Evaluate your business documents, product names, advertising materials, website content, inventions, and other creative works to generate an intellectual property inventory. Update the inventory as you create new intellectual property assets.

Protect the items in your inventory based on the types of intellectual property protection discussed below.

2. Protect Your Creative Works

Creative works are frequently protected with copyrights. These creative works include literary, musical, and artistic works. In many businesses, copyrights are useful to protect books (including e-books), blog posts, graphic designs, PowerPoint slides, audio recordings, and video recordings. Your copyright protection occurs automatically as soon as you (or your team) finish the creative work.

Although your copyright protection is automatic, I recommend including a copyright notice on all of your creative works to clearly identify you (or your company) as the copyright owner. As I mentioned in a recent article, this copyright notice also affords an opportunity to strengthen your brand and business. For example, if someone shares one of your creative works with another person, your copyright notice lets the recipient know whom to contact for more information about the content of the creative work.

3. Safeguard Your Company Identifiers

Your company and brand identifiers are important intellectual property assets. For example, your company name, company logo, and product names are valuable assets if they attract customers and distinguish your products in the marketplace.

These brand identifiers are commonly protected with trademarks. Well-known trademarks include company names (such as “Nike” and “Ford”) and logos (such as the Nike swoosh and the golden arches of McDonald’s). Consider filing a trademark application for important trademarks, such as the trademarks related to significant products or services in your business. For example, if you are investing significant time and money to develop and launch a new product, consider a trademark application to protect the new product name (and logo), which helps protect your investment in that new product.

4. Secure Your Inventions and Trade Secrets

Inventions and novel designs are often protected with patents. Inventions may include physical items (such as computers, exercise equipment, and kitchen tools) or processes (such as computer algorithms that control self-driving cars or procedures for manufacturing products).

To protect an invention, you must first prepare a patent application, which includes a detailed written description with accompanying drawings of the invention. If you develop a new invention, consider consulting with a patent attorney to determine whether the invention is patentable and to evaluate the potential value of the invention to your business.

Trade secrets are business secrets that provide a competitive advantage for your business. Example trade secrets are the formula for Coca-Cola® soda and Google’s search algorithm. These trade secrets are valuable to the companies that maintain the secrets and critical to the operation of the businesses.

You may not realize that your business probably has valuable trade secrets in your customer lists, prospective customer lists, and email lists. These lists are highly valuable to your business and need to be protected in the same manner that you protect other high-value business assets. Protect these lists by limiting the number of people with access to this data and securing the data to prevent unauthorized copying or distribution of these trade secrets.

5. Avoid Legal Headaches

When you hire someone to work for your business, such as an employee, contractor, or freelancer, it’s important to be sure your business owns the creative ideas created by those team members. Since you (or your company) are paying for the work, you should own all intellectual property rights related to the work produced.

This is achieved with a written agreement clearly stating that you own all intellectual property. Typically, the hiring company includes an intellectual property ownership clause in an employment agreement, contractor agreement, or freelancer agreement. Verify that all of your team members have an obligation to assign their intellectual property rights to your organization. Without the proper written agreements, you may encounter legal headaches if a team member (or disgruntled former team member) claims ownership of your intellectual property.

Your intellectual property assets are critical to your business. Take appropriate steps to protect these assets just as you would protect any other valuable asset.

Start applying this five-step system today to start safeguarding your vital intellectual property assets.

Want more help protecting your intellectual property? Download my Free Intellectual Property Checklist at http://MyIPchecklist.com

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.

Take inventory of your existing creative works and generate systems to identify new works that are created within your organization. Each time you complete a project or activity, think about the creative works generated during the execution of the project or activity.

You can keep track of all creative works in your business using a variety of systems. I’ve worked with clients who use database systems, spreadsheets, typed lists, inventory notebooks, and other recording systems. Use whatever system is most convenient for you. Be sure to keep it simple enough that you and your team members will actually keep the list updated.


Discover how to use copyrights, trademarks, patents, and trade secrets to protect your creative works. Click Here to Download my Free Intellectual Property Quick Reference guide.


  1. Use Copyright Notices

If you (or a team member) is the creator of the work, then you (or your business) are automatically the copyright owner when the work is finished. But, I still recommend including a copyright notice on your creative works to clearly indicate that the work is protected and identify you as the owner of the copyright.

The copyright notice also represents a branding opportunity because your name appears in the copyright notice. This can help expand your business by exposing your creative works and ideas to a larger audience.

  1. Protect Your Important Trademarks

Trademarks include logos, names, and phrases that identify a company providing the related goods or services. Example trademarks include company names (such as Nike, Inc.) and logos (such as the Nike swoosh logo). Consider filing a trademark application for important trademarks, such as the trademarks related to significant products or services in your business. For example, if you are investing significant time and resources to develop and launch a new product, consider a trademark application to protect the new product name (and logo), which helps protect your investment in that new project.

  1. Be Certain You Own the Creative Works

When you hire someone to produce creative works for your business, such as an employee, contractor, or freelancer, it’s important to be sure your business owns that creative work. This is done with a written agreement that clearly states that you (or your business) owns all intellectual property associated with the creative work of the employee, contractor, or freelancer. Typically, this is a clause in an employment agreement, contractor agreement, or freelancer agreement.

Your creative works are important business assets – protect them just as you would protect any other valuable asset. Start implementing at least one of the above suggestions to safeguard your creative works.

Discover how to use copyrights, trademarks, patents, and trade secrets to protect your creative works. Download my Free Intellectual Property Quick Reference at http://IPquickreference.com.

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:

  1. Carry a pen/pencil and paper with you at all times. Get a small pad of paper (or Post-it® Notes) and a pencil that easily fit in your pocket or purse. Also, keep a pen and paper wherever you tend to come up with ideas: your car, the nightstand next to your bed, near your exercise equipment, the bathroom, and the kitchen.
  2. Use your smartphone. You can use your smartphone’s note-taking application or a voice recording application. Or, send yourself a text message or call your voicemail and leave a message for yourself.
  3. Email also works to record your ideas. If you send an email to yourself, use a special format in the subject line so you can easily search for those ideas in the future. I do this by starting the subject line with “[IDEA]” (for example, Subject: [IDEA] Write an article explaining how to use provisional patent applications). This allows me to quickly find all of my ideas by searching for “[IDEA]” in my email account.
  4. Use an application like Evernote. These applications let you record your ideas and keep them organized. You can also share the ideas with other team members.
  5. Put a white board in your office or other location just for creative ideas. I have a white board in my office that is used exclusively for innovative business ideas related to my current projects. I can quickly jot down an idea for future reference.
  6. Create an “idea board” or “idea wall.” Several of my clients have an idea board in a public place in their office. Anyone can write ideas on the idea board. This can be very effective because one idea can trigger another idea from a different person, and so on. After a few days, the idea board is full of great ideas. Be sure to take a picture of the idea board every few days so you don’t lose any valuable ideas.

Start implementing at least one of the above techniques to make sure you don’t lose any valuable ideas.

For more information about protecting your intellectual property, download my Free Intellectual Property Checklist at http://MyIPchecklist.com.

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.

Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs fail to recognize IP assets being created in their business. This mistake causes businesses to overlook valuable IP that might provide a competitive advantage by distinguishing the business from others in the marketplace.

The first step in evaluating and protecting IP is to identify the IP assets. Once you have identified those assets, then you can evaluate their value and determine whether the IP is worthy of being protected.

If you fail to recognize the IP in the first place, that asset is lost or, even worse, donated to the public domain. If your IP falls into the public domain, the unique creation or invention that distinguishes your business is freely available for all of your competitors to use. You invested the time and expense of creating the idea or invention, but everyone else gets to use it for free. Your competitors receive a free gift and you lost a valuable competitive advantage.

Create a habit of identifying the IP you create in your business and protect the most valuable creations using a copyright, trademark or patent.

2. No agreements to ensure intellectual property ownership

When starting a business, many entrepreneurs find it cost-effective to hire contractors, consultants and freelancers to help with certain activities. For example, graphic design, website design, video editing and copywriting activities are commonly outsourced to freelancers.

This is a critical time for new businesses to protect their IP, especially the business name, company logo and product/service names. These items represent the foundation of the business and it must own these IP assets.

When hiring anyone to do work for your company (both freelancers and employees), be sure you own all IP rights to the items created by that person. For example, if you are hiring a freelancer to create a graphic design used by your company, you should own all IP rights to the created design. This prevents the freelancer from selling the same design to other clients, which may include your competitors. Whenever possible, use a written agreement with a IP clause for every employee, freelancer, contractor and consultant working for your company.

I have seen situations where a company hired a freelancer to create the company’s logo with no agreement indicating who owned the IP rights. Several months after the company had invested significant time and funds to incorporate the logo into its branding materials, the same logo was used by another company (in one case, a direct competitor).

If you are paying someone to perform work for your company, use a written agreement to be certain you own all IP developed by that person.

3. Not protecting intellectual property quickly

In some situations, entrepreneurs must take fast action to protect their IP. For example, the United States patent laws are based on a first-to-file system. If you develop an invention, but don’t file an application rapidly, another inventor may develop the same invention at a later time and file a patent application. If you have not already filed a patent application, the later inventor typically has priority over the earlier inventor because they were the first to file a patent application.

Other situations can occur with trademarks if two different companies use similar trademarks to identify the same goods or services. In a recent example, I worked with a client who spent a significant amount of time and money developing a business system with a unique name. The client began marketing the system before taking steps to protect the name as a trademark. Several weeks later, a competing business began using the same name for their own business system. The client will not necessarily lose the right to use their name, but they must take fast action to protect this core part of their business.

Start protecting your business today by looking for the IP assets you regularly create. Identify your most valuable IP and take steps to safeguard those assets to avoid future headaches.

You are invited to continue this discussion in my Free Intellectual Property Community where you can connect with other entrepreneurs and get intellectual property tips and strategies.

$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.

In this situation, the U.S. Postal Service created a new stamp with a picture of the Statue of Liberty. If the postal service had used an image of the original Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, there would not have been any copyright problems because the image of the Statue of Liberty is in the public domain.

But, instead of using an image of the original Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, the U.S. Postal Service used an image of a statue at the New York – New York Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. That statue is a work of art that differs from the original Statue of Liberty – and the owner of the copyright for the Las Vegas version sued the U.S. Postal Service for copyright infringement.

A judge recently ruled that the U.S. Postal Service had infringed the copyright of the Las Vegas statue and awarded the copyright owner $3.5 million.

Let this be a reminder that you must be careful when you use images in your business. Here are four ways to stay “safe” with your images:

  1. Create an image yourself by taking a photo or creating a graphical design on your computer. You are now the copyright owner of the new image.
  2. Hire someone to create the image. Be sure you have a written agreement clearly stating that you (or your company) own all intellectual property rights to the image created.
  3. Purchase the image from an image source. Many companies sell images for use in your business. When purchasing an image, check the rights you receive so you are able to use the image in the desired manner.
  4. Get permission from the copyright owner. Obtain permission in writing along with any restrictions on how you can use the image and what type of attribution to provide.

Be sure everyone on your team understands how to safely use images.

Would you like to connect with other entrepreneurs and get intellectual property tips and strategies? If yes, I invite you to join my Free Intellectual Property Community. It’s a great place to ask me questions (and get quick answers).

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.

In fact, for many entrepreneurs and businesses, intellectual property is their most valuable business asset.

For example, you may not realize that articles, books, website content, PowerPoint slides, product names, advertising slogans, and customer lists are all intellectual property. Since people don’t recognize this intellectual property, they fail to protect those valuable business assets.

I don’t want you to make that mistake!

This one piece of knowledge can make a big difference in your business. By learning to identify and protect your intellectual property, you are far ahead of the average business owner. This knowledge lets you take steps to safeguard those critical business assets.

I encourage you to develop a habit of recognizing the intellectual property you (and your team members) are creating every day. And, appreciate the value of those assets.

Here’s a great way to start:

Take some time to review everything that has already been created in your business. Prepare a list of the creative works and continue adding to the list as you and your team members develop new creative works.

Here are some examples of intellectual property you may be creating:

  • Articles
  • Books (or e-books)
  • Website content
  • Advertising/marketing content
  • Presentation slides
  • Graphical designs
  • Photographs
  • Audio recordings
  • Video recordings
  • Company logo
  • Company name
  • Product names
  • Advertising slogans or phrases
  • Customer lists

After you create your list of intellectual property assets, consider protecting those assets just as you would protect any other valuable business asset.

For more information about protecting your intellectual property, click here to get my Free Intellectual Property Checklist at http://MyIPchecklist.com

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.

As an Intellectual Property Attorney, I help my clients protect their intellectual property.  Just as important, I help them avoid infringing the intellectual property rights of other people.

Here’s a simple rule:  Do not copy images or other content from the Internet (or any other source) without permission. 

Even though an image, article or other creative work does not have a visible copyright notice, it probably has a copyright owner.  If you want to be safe, assume that all images and other content on the Internet are copyrighted.

Safe Use of Images (and Other Content)

The list below discusses the safe use of images, but the same principles apply to all types of content, such as articles, books, diagrams, infographics, product names, and company names.

To avoid receiving a nasty copyright infringement letter, follow one of the approaches below to safely obtain images used in your business.

  1. Create an image yourself by taking a photo or creating a graphical design on your computer. You are now the copyright owner of the new image. Look through the images on your cell phone or camera to see if you already have the perfect image for your project.
  2. Hire someone to create the image. If you use this approach, I recommend a written agreement clearly stating that you (or your company) own all intellectual property rights to the image created.
  3. Purchase the image from an image source. Many companies sell images for use in your business. When purchasing an image, check the rights you receive so you are able to use the image in the desired manner.  For example, some images may be restricted to print-only use or website-only use.  Read the license agreement to understand restrictions on use of the image.
  4. Get permission from the copyright owner. I recommend getting the permission in writing along with details regarding any restrictions on how you can use the image and what type of attribution to provide to the copyright owner.

By using one of the techniques discussed above, you can focus on growing your business instead of worrying about receiving a copyright infringement letter from an attorney.

For more information about protecting your intellectual property, click here to download my Free Intellectual Property Checklist at http://MyIPchecklist.com.

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