Fact and Fiction: Intellectual Property & Small Business Owners

If there is one complicated aspect of entrepreneurship that small business owners struggle to understand, it’s intellectual property. As if time and money don’t present enough troubles and constraints for small business owners, intellectual property simply serves to muddy the waters even further.

The facets of intellectual property are largely misunderstood in the small business world. There are in fact some key points that can help small business owners protect their rights, assets and interests using the power of intellectual property law. Here are some commonly held myths regarding intellectual property and practical applications of truths for small business owners.

Myth #1 – Intellectual Property Rights Are a Waste of Time and Money for Small Business Owners. Intellectual property isn’t just about patents; it’s about protecting the unique brand and image that your small business has developed. Many small business owners often forget that intellectual property also pertains to trademarks, the look and feel of a certain product, and even the website addresses that the company uses. These are relatively simple assets to protect without the hefty price tag like a patent carries. Small business owners can easily secure intellectual property rights for items like trademarks and web addresses.

Myth #2 – I Already Have a Trademark, Therefore, My Brand is Totally Safe. A trademark is an excellent way to protect your small business and your brilliant ideas. However, a trademark doesn’t automatically grant you rights to everything under the sun. For example, if you have a trademark registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, it doesn’t stop someone else from registering a URL with the same name as your trademark product. You might not be able to get the exact URL you desire, even if you have a solid trademark in hand.

Myth #3 – My U.S. Patent or Trademark is Good All Over the World. International business has transformed the world of intellectual property. When doing business in other countries, you might discover that it is not possible or very costly to secure intellectual property rights, such as a trademark or URL.

Small business owners need to exercise awareness and prudence when it comes to intellectual property rights. For more specific information regarding intellectual property, especially patents and trademarks, consult the Small Business Association or the US Patent and Trademark Office.

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