Intellectual property, commonly known as IP, is the term used for the products of the mind, or creations of intellect. In other words, it is all the intangible things created by a company. IP is intangible because it is not a physical product, but while IP is not the same as a physical product, like a car, it can be extremely valuable. It gives the owner the exclusive right to profit from the IP and exclude all others from doing the same. This is what is also commonly known as IP rights, which is protected by IP law.
Is intellectual property important?
Yes! Of course IP includes media, like the product of writers, artists and actors. But, it is much larger than media. This can include ideas and computer code, like how one system talks to another or how a computer decodes or encodes information. And, IP can simply be the idea, not just the execution, which is why it can be so valuable. Think of the value of any of Google’s algorithms. These are all IP.
What about tech startups?
Often, for startups, their IP is their most valuable asset, period. The startup cannot secure market share or change the market if they cannot prevent other companies from utilizing their IP. This is why investors look to see if startups have their IP protected.
Most IP can be protected. Computer code and software is protected through patents, trademarks, trade secrets and copyrights. For example, Apple protects its product line with patents. It uses copyright to protect its code, including its operating systems. Apple also uses trademarks to protect their name, logo and design aesthetics. Finally, it uses trade secrets law for it components and designs for upcoming products.
How to protect IP
This is an individualized question that should be answered in consultation with an attorney. For startups, Non-Disclosure Agreements are a key to protecting their IP from employees, partner companies and vendors. But, beginning the process of getting patents and trademarks early and quickly is the most important steps.
The key takeaway here is that IP is important for every business, even those in Morris, New Jersey. But, that will mean getting the help of an attorney to make sure that one’s IP rights are legally protected.