Intellectual property is an asset your company owns that gives it differentiation and a competitive advantage in the marketplace. While some businesses recognize the importance of their intellectual property, many businesses neglect both protecting and improving their intellectual property. After all, intellectual property is an intangible asset, therefore, it is hard to place an actual value on its worth. So, you may be careless in providing it with adequate protection to keep it safe.
When it comes to your intellectual property you want to ensure that it is protected so that no one can steal what you have spent years to develop. Without the proper protection in place you could find yourself looking at someone else profiting off of your creative idea for your software. To avoid this from happening you need to take the proper measures to keep your intellectual property from falling into the wrong hands.
To keep the intellectual property of your software protected, use the four following tactics:
1. File a Copyright
A copyright is the protection of an idea or other information that has been developed by the copyright holder. Copyright laws protect the authorship of music, novels, movies, songs, architecture, and software. Although copyright protection is granted when your work is first created and given a tangible form, you still will need to give it the proper protection and register it—registered copyright. Registering your intellectual information with the U.S. Copyright Office provides it with the proper protection that gets recognized in court.
When you register your copyright it is noted for public record which gives notice that you have claimed legal copyright protection for your intellectual information.
Another benefit of a copyright is that it provides you with the ability to sue anyone who infringes upon your copyright. Therefore, a copyright is needed if you want to pursue legal action against those who use your intellectual information for their own gain without your permission.
2. File for a Patent
A patent grants property rights to the inventor of a new invention. If your software has a distinct feature that separates it from your competition, you will need a patent to protect your competitive advantage.
The benefits of a patent for your software include:
- Right Exclusivity – The exclusive rights of a patent grant only you complete ownership and use of your software for twenty years from the date of the filed patent application.
- Establishing market positioning – Since your competitors cannot use your patented software, you reduce the threat of competition, providing you with an advantage in the marketplace
- Increased returns on investments – Having exclusive rights allows you the possibility to generate higher revenue since your competition cannot provide the same value only you have the ability to produce.
- Opportunity to license or sell the invention – You don’t have to do the hard work of marketing and selling your software if you sell it or license it to another company that will do all the work for you (provided you share some of the generated revenue).
3. Think Hard About Source Code Licenses
If you use a source code license, you are giving a licensee a non-exclusive and non-transferable license to your software; permission to use and modify your licensed software. This is a risky move to take because you are possibly allowing your source code outside of your organization. This arguably weakens your company’s trade secrets as the source code is no longer being kept completely secret.
To eliminate these issues use a source code escrow to ensure the rights of your software are protected. A source code escrow protects all parties of a software license by having a 3rd party escrow agent hold the software’s essential information. This helps keep the source code safe while still providing the protection a licensee needs.
4. Have Developers Sign an IP Assignment Agreement
The developers who are developing your intellectual property need to sign an IP assignment agreement stating that all work developed within the company belongs to the company.
This helps to dissuade an individual from selling your intellectual information to a competitor or using it to profit from their own use. If one of your developers does take either course of action you can use this document to take swift, legal action.
Your intellectual property as a valuable asset needs to be well protected. These four tips can help provide you with protection and a competitive advantage.
If your goal is to create valuable software that generates large sums of money you will want to definitely invest in these protective measures.