Why Keep your Intellectual Property Online a Secret?

By Guest Blogger, Michael Lechter

intellectual property onlineThe importance of managing intellectual property online cannot be overstated when starting a new venture or making changes to existing businesses. Innovation is a leading area of focus for new businesses, and protecting your work, your ideas and most importantly your opportunities for the future is critical.

Many entrepreneurs…

  • a) overlook IP management completely
  • b) are so proud of their trademarks, copyrights, patents, etc., that they can’t wait to sing their own praises from the rooftops.

In some cases, that is a risky course of action to take. Intellectual property online, business strategy and how you make decisions on what to make public and what to keep a secret, or whether you play your cards close to the vest are all important decisions to make and to communicate to your team.

So, why keep your intellectual property online a secret? Let’s start with three facts that impact strategic considerations.

  • As a basic proposition, unless the other guy is subject to some contractual obligation, copies copyrightable content, or creates some likelihood of consumer confusion as to source of goods or affiliation with you, he can legitimately use and copy any information and unpatented products that are not kept secret. Therefore, keeping things quiet may provide less exposure to risk of someone kiting your ideas.
  • A public disclosure of an invention has consequences. If you are interested in patent protection, you have a one-year period from that public disclosure to file your patent application in the US. And, unfortunately, patent protection in many foreign countries would be foreclosed. In this case, public disclosure may expose you to being “scooped” during this year or having to defend that someone jumped in and got a patent on your idea.
  • Under the new patent law (American Invents Act), whomever files patent application on an invention first gets the patent, unless you can prove they “derived” the invention from you. However, if you disclose your IP to someone, and they file a patent application on an improvement of your IP – the derivation provisions of the law may not help you. This is important to note. Because of your disclosure, some of your rights to first come patent protection around your idea may be compromised.

Obviously, how you handle intellectual property takes into account your goals, a well planned out approach and a mini business plan. These are built around risk management and capitalizing on successful positioning of your ideas, products and service.

The bottom line: It is highly advisable to have an IP expert among your inner circle of advisors. In fact, it is imperative.

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