In March, SnyderLAW celebrated our “business birthday.” An article on Forbes.com points out that “Success is a function of your team’s efforts, and you have to celebrate those efforts if you want to foster positive morale going forward.” With that in mind we wanted to ask these important positive growth questions –
What is your company celebrating? Are you celebrating the achievement of a goal, an exceptional employee, a strategic relationship, a new product, a new market, the award of a trademark or patent, or perhaps your business birthday?
At SnyderLAW, we are in the business of people, more specifically people and companies that are growing. We are always keeping an eye on the calendar, and for good reason. As a business and intellectual property law firm, we are responsible for knowing our clients. This can be in the simplest form of a work anniversary to their filing deadlines and overall asset protection which impact the value of their business.
Why is it important to know your business dates and milestones? Many companies, especially those in the healthcare, manufacturing, and technology industries, have intellectual assets that far exceed their physical assets. Their manufacturing trade secrets, the patent on the latest cure, and the trademarks and design patents for the latest in electronics are often as (or more) valuable than the materials and factories used to build them and the packing materials and trucks used to transport them. This value is so important many of the companies will often hire a legal firm to manage their intellectual property portfolio.
This portfolio will look different for each company since no two companies are alike. There can be many types of intellectual property in a company’s portfolio, much of which depends upon the company’s goods and services. For example, a consultant may have copyrighted a book and training materials. A commercial kitchen will have trade secrets, such as recipes. A producer of a line of snacks will have quite a few trademarks for their product names and logos or even a patent on custom packaging. A pharmaceutical company will have patents for their medications. A software company will have licensing agreements. The list goes on. As you can see not only is the portfolio different but the level of legal service will be different as well.
Each of the types of intellectual property mentioned are different tools for protecting that company’s ideas. Each is obtained in its own way, and each is meticulously maintained, or it may be lost. Here are a few tools you business should be considering to protect your own intellectual property and company value:
- COPYRIGHTS: Copyrights are filed with the U.S. Copyright office. If filed correctly, the right to own the work is vested in the creator indefinitely.
- TRADEMARKS: On the other hand, trademarks are filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and must be renewed, or the owner loses their rights.
- PATENTS: A patent explains exactly how to create the product or invention, but gives the patent holder protection for up to 20 years, if maintenance filings are timely.
- TRADE SECRET: A trade secret is a secret. If it can be kept a secret with confidentiality agreements and strategic planning, then it can last indefinitely. Once the secret is out, however, there is no protection.
- AGREEMENTS: Licensing agreements, co-marketing agreements, and strategic partnership agreements are useful tools in a growing business. These documents may have a term of a year or more, and often contain automatic renewal provisions.
Depending on the tools you need it will require different levels of service. Some of these tools require yearly review, some should be addressed every few years, and trademarks should be protected with a monthly watch service. If you do not have in house counsel or your in house counsel does not focus specifically on IP matters, you can hire a law firm to handle the portfolio management for you. This firm will be able to manage your intellectual property portfolio and will keep track of the company’s assests; including new items that need strategic protection, as well as already protected ideas that the company wishes to continue to safeguard.
We asked our CEO Janelle Snyder, Esq., the importance of protection, here is her response, “I believe that every business has intellectually property (client and vendor lists, internal reporting methods and documents, etc.), and every business would benefit from reviewing their assets with a business-minded intellectual property attorney. They may not have a large intellectual property portfolio, but they likely have more to protect than they realize.”
Join us and think about what your company celebrates, because it is likely that which makes your company unique. You will probably find that this uniqueness stems from a piece of intellectual property; an idea, a recipe, a formula, a name, a design, a process, an invention. Whatever it is, recognize its importance to your success. Happy Celebrating.
If you are now realizing that you do in fact have a piece of intellectual property or an entire portfolio and need a legal team that offers outsourced general counsel for IP portfolio management, we may be able to help. Give us a call to set up an exploratory phone call about protecting your assets today.