The new year is a time to establish goals for your business that will set you up for success. To be successful for the long haul, you need to protect your intellectual property. It is your most valuable business asset and deserves your diligent attention. Here are five things to do to ensure your business has proper protection in the new year.
Are you ready to protect your work? At Angie Avard Turner Law, LLC, that is what I do. I help creative entrepreneurs guard the work they create so that they can enjoy the fruits of their labor. Schedule a time to talk by reserving your spot on my calendar.
Get Your Protection in Place this Year
No business is without risk. And anyone who tells you otherwise is, let’s say, less than honest. But there is plenty you can do to mitigate these risks, and much of it comes down to these five resolutions for protecting your intellectual property.
1. Incorporate Your Business
Starting your business probably required some level of investment on your part. Incorporating your business helps to protect that investment as well as your current and future personal assets.
By legally separating your personal life from your business life, incorporation creates somewhat of a shield over your non-business assets. As entrepreneurs, we can be optimistic that nothing harmful will happen while still being proactive and realistic.
Incorporating your business may also have significant tax benefits and increase your company’s credibility by making it look more stable and professional.
There are many different options when establishing a business entity, and it can be daunting to wade through the information and figure out which option would be the best fit. Work with trusted legal and tax professionals to make the right choice for your situation.
2. Establish or Update Employee Contracts
Contracts communicate your expectations for your employees and create clear boundaries for both sides. They also protect you if confusion or struggles arise with an employee.
Contracts allow you to establish all of the following:
The scope for schedule and deliverables
The basis for performance reviews
If you don’t have contracts in place with your employees, it’s time to get that handled. You need to protect your business interests and IP by having clear agreements. Now is also an excellent time to look at existing contracts with employees. Are there changes you need to make? Taking time to update contracts will provide continued clarity and help you and your employees achieve your goals this year.
3. Establish NDAs
Confidentiality or non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) are crucial to protect your intellectual property. These legally binding documents clarify what another party can or cannot share about your customers, products, services, and processes. To protect your IP, you can establish NDAs with employees, vendors, and contractors.
These agreements protect what you create within your business by legally preventing someone from sharing confidential or proprietary information. And if they break the NDA, you have recourse to recover damages.
Every entrepreneur has to share their work with outside people at some point. When sharing these things with others through collaboration, an NDA can ensure that your original creation doesn’t get out into the world without your say-so.
Like contracts, NDAs help set clear boundaries around the work you are doing with someone else. These agreements are essential even if you are working with friends or family. Any business relationship where you share sensitive and confidential information needs an NDA in writing.
By asking someone to sign an NDA before you work together, you are not telling them, “I don’t trust you.” Instead, you are setting parameters to ensure there are no surprises or misunderstandings.
4. Register Copyrights and Trademarks if Applicable
In your business, you likely are creating unique things all the time, even if you don’t think you are. From software to recipes to drawings, your creations are the heart of your business. Protecting this intellectual property is not only important for your overall business success, but it’s also your legal right.
You can accomplish this by registering a copyright or trademark for your creation. A copyright provides legal protection for the author’s original works, such as photos or songs.
Trademarks are a bit different. They cover any word, phrase, symbol, or combination of those that help someone identify the goods or services you provide.
Both of these forms of protection offer you legal recourse if someone uses your registered IP without permission. No business is too small to take advantage of copyrights and trademarks. As I always tell clients, if it’s worth creating, it’s worth protecting.
5. Hire an Attorney
Laws around intellectual property and contracts can be overwhelming and confusing when it’s not your area of expertise. But ignoring them and continuing to do business as usual could lead to heartache. Seeing someone else use and profit from your ideas is devastating, so make it a goal to protect your creations this year.
But don’t try to do it alone. Hiring an expert intellectual property or contract law attorney offers peace of mind and a step toward financial security. They can ensure that your contracts and NDAs provide the highest legal protection possible.
A lawyer also can help you determine which types of protection are appropriate for your business. Having expert support makes sure you cover all the bases.
It can feel intimidating to find the right fit, especially since you probably don’t hire a lawyer very often. Ask for referrals from business connections, and don’t hesitate to ask questions before hiring someone. You deserve to have experience and expertise on your side.
Ready for Help?
As a creative entrepreneur, I understand the investment and commitment it takes to get your ideas out into the world. And as an attorney, I understand the critical importance of protecting all of it.
Let’s connect if you are interested in professional legal support to protect your intellectual property and business in the new year. You can schedule your time and get started on those resolutions.