How to use intellectual property to strengthen your business

Use a provisional patent application

A provisional patent application will help prevent your invention from being stolen. If you discover a new invention, even if it still has room for improvement, you should consider filing a provisional patent application.

The best strategy to adopt is to file multiple provisional patent applications throughout the year every time you improve your invention. Thereby, you will be able to establish an early filing date for a full patent application at a later time. Using this temporary protection can also dissuade possible copycats and infringers. Moreover, by continuing to update your work you will help build a solid portfolio.

Your invention is not the only thing to protect. You should also consider all the variations of your invention and the manufacturing techniques needed for making it. This will make it harder for your competitor to circumvent your invention and easier for you to defend your intellectual property rights.

File application for patents

You will want to first ensure that your invention is patentable (i.e. that it is novel, non-obvious, and useful to society).

To confirm the novelty of our invention, you should become familiar with the notion of “prior art”.  According to the World Intellectual Property Organization, prior art refers to “scientific and technical information that existed prior to the effective date of the patent application”. Therefore, you have to examine your invention and compare it to any similar inventions. You will have to point to and transcribe every difference that makes your invention unique. Prior art is the most common reason for rejecting a patent application.

Filing a non-provisional patent application is also advisable when you think that your full patent application will be favorably answered. You should also consider the benefits to your business of filing patents internationally against the possible costs (international filings can be expensive).  Even if you decide that international filings could add value to your business, you should choose your future partners and filing countries with care.

Consider using other protections: design patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets

Firstly, a design patent is a type of patent that covers the appearance of your. If the appearance is ornamental, you should consider filing a design patent to prevent online sellers from making exact copies.

Secondly, you can also use a trademark for similar protection.  The brand will be identified as yours, and it will strengthen your business.

Thirdly, when you are the creator of an original literary, musical or artistic work, an exclusive right is granted by law under a form of intellectual property known as copyright and which does not require any registration.  You may, however, choose to register your copyrights as a form of additional protection against infringement. In fact, a registration will be required in order to take any action against copyright infringement.  Though often overlooked, copyright remains an efficient form of legal protection, and in some cases it is even more efficient than a patent or a trademark.

Finally, you should not underestimate the value of trade secrets protection. According to the World Intellectual Property Organization, a trade secret includes “any confidential business information which provides an enterprise a competitive edge” and may “include sales methods, distribution methods, consumer profiles, advertising strategies, lists of suppliers and clients, and manufacturing processes”.   The trade secret must be necessary to protect your invention in order to qualify for protection. Holders of trade secrets should consider requiring a good non-disclosure agreement from those who will be privy to the trade secret.  If your invention’s information is disclosed to the public, you will not be able to claim exclusive rights as a trade secret, after all the work and money you put to into your invention.