Dear Ladies and Gents:
Previously we addressed intellectual property (IP) pitfalls which affect very business bottom line. Now we begin our discussion of cost/effective IP recommendations for businesses. There are three categories for our purposes: United States copyright registration, trade secret protection and non–disclosure agreements.
Copyright registration is particularly recommended for computer related inventions such as computer programs. It is also appropriate for architectural drawings and ornamental product designs. We will discuss copyright registration in more detail with a future IP discussion.
Trade secret protection is cost/effective for confidential information which (i) provides an economic advantage because it is not generally known; and (ii) would benefit third parties if they acquired the information. Confidential information can be ‘upgraded’ for trade secret protection if the owner affirmatively maintains its secrecy at the onset of the information’s existence. Typical requirements for preservation of secrecy include:
1. Encryption and long passwords for computer related data;
2. Limited access to confidential information of all formats, and only on a need to know basis;
3. Designation of confidential information with the word ‘CONFIDENTIAL’ and
4. Retention of keys to cabinets which
(1) contain confidential information; and
(2) with a signout sheet for keys on a need to know basis.
Third cost-effective IP protection also requires non-disclosure agreements with outside contractors, vendors and employees. The non-disclosure provisions for employees should be plainly stated in the employment agreement. Similarly, written agreements for outside contractors and vendors should be provided and signed on a per project basis.
The above three procedures on a limited budget may not protect all of your business assets. However, a significant portion of business IP is protected, and this result is infinitely preferable to no protection whatsoever.
Our next discussion will address ownership of IP projects which you pay others to create for your business.