Intellectual Property: how do you protect and preserve this valuable asset

Thoughts are valuable. Ideas make money. Whether we create music, artwork, a book or invent useful gadgets or change the world through innovation – all of this is intellectual property. An individual thought, rising on others can be recorded and evaluated in the same way any other kind of property can be tied into an originator’s worth and estate.

After real estate and a canny share portfolio, intellectual property is the next most important card in your wealth creation pack. Ideas can be recorded and preserved in legal tenure that can be passed down though generations. The value issuing from intellectual property that has truly impacted the world, can run to billions.

But how do you go about ensuring that your idea or your work is safe from being copied or passed off by unscrupulous people as their own? There are several ways to do this depending into which category your idea or invention falls.

Patents, trademarks and copyright

  • Utility patents may be granted to anyone who invents a new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter – or any useful improvement of these elements if already in use.
  • Design patents are granted to anyone who invents a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture.
  • Plant patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plant.
  • Trademarks protect words, names, symbols, sounds, or colours that distinguish goods and services from those manufactured or sold by others, and indicate the source of the goods.
  • Copyright protects original works of authorship, including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic and certain other works, both published and unpublished.

A patent strategy

As a young business or a business developing a new product, you will need to devise a patent strategy. Look at the future and plan which of your work needs to be legally protected immediately – and be aware of any further ideas that may flow from this and need patenting. No matter how you strategise, you have to plan, understand and execute that strategy from the beginning. Other people’s ideas can creep up on you – never let patenting your product sit unattended at the bottom of a to-do list.

Hire the right support to manage your intellectual assets. Whoever this might be – whether within or without the company – they should understand your industry, your company and your particular problems. A professional intellectual property expert who has a successful track record in your particular market, will assess your patent request, ask the right questions and make suggestions. There are a variety of patenting processes in the intellectual property jungle and an expert in one is not necessarily expert in the others.

Business startup protection

  • Firstly educate yourself on patents, trademarks and copyright and assess where your intellectual property falls with regard to your new business. A good place to start is with a Google patent search at google.com/patents
  • Remember to patent what is important to others, not just you.
  • Work with an attorney who specializes in intellectual property, a patent may not be your only asset. Make sure you identify all possible registerable trademarks and copyrights. Be sure to search out a patent attorney during your firm’s early days.
  • Right from the start, make sure your employment agreements, licenses, sales contracts and technology transfer agreements all protect your intellectual property.
  • File as fast as you can. A patent application holds your place in line. You will have 12 months from that initial submission to expand upon your filing. And remember, wherever you are, patents can take years to complete.
  • Investigate international patents to see if you need to patent worldwide. A patent in one country will not protect you from copycat competitors in from other areas such as Europe or China.

Weird patents

You can patent any idea you like. Never feel that it’s not valuable enough or not the right fit. You never know when your invention or product may suddenly impact the market. Best to be ready. Consider the following genuine registered patents:

  • dog ear holders – for keeping long ears out of the food
  • a bird camouflage suit for hunting
  • a kissing shield to ensure there is no transfer of germs when kissing
  • a carry-everything belt holder for camping combined with a neck brace in case you have a broken neck at the same time
  • a combination bicycle and sail for enthusiasts to experience both sports simultaneously
  • oh, and somebody has apparently patented the design of the pyramids.

We are full of ideas

At Foster Wealth we understand the importance of imagination. Ideas help us to experience the world in a better way – whether in philanthropy, technology or entertainment. The influence of creativity and design cannot be over-estimated. And we are here to ensure that you understand your best options for financially harnessing that influence. Intellect keeps us busy. Your idea might just be the next big thing. Let us advise you and help you drive the wealth factor of your mind.

Find us at: www.fosterwealth.co.za

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