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During a recent COSE WebEd Webinar, Mark Guinto, intellectual property attorney at the McDonald Hopkins law firm in Cleveland, gave an overview on intellectual property and how small businesses can leverage IP for success during a presentation titled “How to Use Intellectual Property to Grow and Protect Your Business.”
Guinto explained how entrepreneurs can strategically protect ideas, brands and assets when it comes to IP, with the ultimate goals of positioning themselves for future success, increasing market share and growing their businesses.

Types of IP

You’ve seen Shark Tank, but what do we really mean when discussing intellectual property? There are four different categories to consider when talking about IP.

Patents protect the overall idea of your invention. For something to be patented, it’s required to be new and useful as deemed so by the United States Patent and Trademark Office upon filing. Bars to patentability might include not filing in time or not being able to prove that it’s novel. Benefits include preventing other companies from using your invention, keeping competitors out of the market, being able to license your invention to other companies, and it also helps you build your patent portfolio.

Trademarks are your brand identifiers or source identifiers, such as the Nike Swoosh symbol. They are used to identify and distinguish the source of goods or services, and to try to build goodwill and brand awareness.

Copyrights are rights in the expression of your idea, such as songs, books, articles, software code and advertisements your company creates.

Trade secrets are any information, practices and know-how you keep within your own company and do not disclose to the world, like the Coca Cola recipe. Perhaps for you it’s how to operate a piece of equipment or coding practices you use.

Legal Lingo

In understanding the different types of intellectual property, it’s helpful to be aware of other relevant legal terminology, such as non-disclosure agreements, joint developments and licenses. 

Non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) are agreements between companies to share proprietary information with each other with restrictions on use of such information. This type of document will most likely define what you can do with the information you receive and what the other party can do with the information you give them.

Guinto advises that, before talking to a third party, you always look for an NDA. He says it’s important to coordinate with your sales team and reiterate to them to check for an NDA even if it’s a company you’ve been doing business with a long time. When in doubt about whether or not one exists or the details involved in it, be sure to contact legal assistance.

Click here to read more and to view Mark's full presentation to COSE.
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