Intellectual property (IP) is an issue that most businesses face yet don’t know what to do about. Every business at least owns its own name for its market, but not all businesses understand the trademark process. Just like many published blogs contain copyrighted material that is never registered with the Library of Congress. Countless inventions go unrewarded due to not following the filing process properly or at all.
Why Intellectual Property Matters
If a business issues unique products it should consider seeking patent protection. This strategy is essential if a unique product sells well and develops a growing market. But small business entrepreneurs with limited capital are often discouraged by costs of the filing process and patent search fees.
Competition is one a primary reason that draws companies into filing for patents. They want to be the first in the market and the mind with a new innovation in their field. Even if a company hasn’t developed a complete prototype or product description, it can use a “patent-pending” status to market new products for up to a year before officially filing.
Budget Is a Major Barrier
Sole proprietors with no budget simply may not be ready to put a product on the market. For a large corporation, on the other hand, it’s common to hold hundreds or even thousands of patents even if most are never utilized and only exist to keep competitors out of the market. Patents can take up to a few years to be approved, which can be an eternity for a small firm yet not a long wait period for a publicly-traded company, which plans schedules around annual and quarterly financial reports.
In that sense the patent process favors big business and weeds out small organizations that cannot afford even a patent search. For those entities that can afford a thorough patent search, they will know in a matter of a few weeks if their patent concept infringes on any “prior art.”
Filing Steps for IP Protection
The first step to properly protecting your intellectual property is to hire an IP expert if it’s for filing a patent or trademark.
Step two is to find out if your application has a chance of being approved by conducting a patent or trademark search, depending on whether you are protecting an invention or a brand name. Filing copyright forms for written works is a much more simplified process and can be completed online quickly. For a patent or trademark, you need to file with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), whereas for a copyright you need to file with the U.S. Copyright Office, a division of the Library of Congress.
The next step is to wait for government agency approval of your application. This process can take several months. Should you receive a rejection for a patent in the mail, you can resubmit your patent once you have identified why it failed to pass and have made proper adjustments to the prototype.