Protecting Your Business And Your IP

Protect Your Assets: Understanding and Navigating Intellectual Property Law for Small Businesses

On Behalf of | Jul 5, 2023 | Intellectual Property

Intellectual Property (IP) rights are among a business’ most valuable corporate assets and are integral to a company’s success. It is the secret formula in Chic-Fil-A’s sauce; it is the small business strategy that propelled Google to a multi-billion-dollar company; It is in the logos, unique names, and slogans of companies, the content they write, and the proprietary processes they use. TIMELY PROTECT IT!

I say “timely” because of-times when I speak with a client or prospect about this critical part of their business, they think it is something that can be put on the back burner. WRONG! Understanding, your businesses intellectual properties early on: (1) gives your business a competitive advantage; (2) prevents others from reputationally and financially damaging your business; and (3) prevents your business from inadvertently infringing on another’s IP rights.

For example, “[o]ne of the costliest IP mistakes entrepreneurs can make is using work they don’t own the rights to.”[1] Let’s say you verbally hire a videographer to create a marketing video for your business. You use the video on your website and social media accounts, gain a ton of traffic, and experience an influx in sales based on the video. The videographer demands that you remove the content from your website and social media accounts, or she will file a lawsuit claiming copyright infringement and seeking all profits. You honestly thought the video belonged to your company since you hired the videographer to create it.

The video belongs to the videographer, as the original author/creator, even if you hired her to create it. The only way around this is to have in place a written contract explicitly stating that the videographer is a “Work Made for Hire” and, as the creator, gives their rights to that work to you. Otherwise, you could be on the hook for copyright infringement.

So, what IP rights does my business have?

There are four types of intellectual property protections available to nearly all businesses; Protecting these rights early on is an important form of legal insurance that can help your small business take off and protect it as it grows:

  • Patent rights: Patents protect inventions. They give you or your business the exclusive right to make, use, or sell an invention for a set period and entitle you to damages for infringement.
  • Trademark rights: A trademark (“™”) or service mark (“SM”) protects aspects of your business’ brand, such as, a name, logo, slogan, design. They give your business the exclusive right to use, sell, or license your trade/service marks and entitle you to damages for infringement.
  • Copyright rights: A copyright protects your businesses photos, marketing/training materials, videos, and other artistic works. They give your business the exclusive right to use, sell, or license your copyright and entitle you to damages for infringement.
  • Trade Secret Rights: “Nearly every company has trade secrets of some sort. Trade secret information can be anything that provides an economic or competitive advantage over one’s competitors,”[2] such as: “proprietary databases, business processes and methods, information about costs, pricing, margins, overhead, manufacturing processes, proprietary computer software programs, customer lists, and strategic plans and marketing programs.”[3]

How do I protect my businesses IP?

The best ways to protect your IP rights are to:

1.    Get a Patent. If you believe you have a protectable patent, contact a patent attorney to assist you with assessing your options. WedLawk is not a patent firm and Ms. Green does not provide patent-related legal services.

2.    Protect Your Brand. I’ve seen the term “protect your brand” lately across the internet and social media, mostly referring to registering your company’s trademarks. But protecting your brand is more than just registering your trademark. Yes, you should register your trademarks and service marks with the USPTO, even those you haven’t actually used, but only after you have clearance that doing so does not infringe on someone else’s established IP rights.  In other words, don’t register a trademark before you’ve done your research, which should be done at the initial stages of planning your business, when you are deciding on a business name and logo.  If you need to register a trademark or have questions about pre-clearance, contact WedLawk today.

3.    Copyright Your Work. Register your photos, videos, and other artistic works with the United States Copyright Office. The process is straight-forward for registering a single work of art but can be a little more complicated for registering a group of works. If you need help with copyrighting your work, or have questions related thereto, WedLawk is happy to assist.

4.    Implement and Use NonDisclosure Agreements. You must protect trade secrets from others to protect the integrity of your business. This is accomplished by the implementation and use of a non-disclosure agreement. Use this NDA with employees, investors, clients, and anyone else you share the business’ confidential information with. If you need an NDA template, contact WedLawk.

What can I do with my IP?

You can use it exclusively or you could license or sell it. If you have questions about licensing or selling your IP rights, contact WedLawk today.

The starting point for managing your intellectual property is to first recognize and understand just what intellectual property is and why it is important to your business. I hope this article helped with that.

If you have any questions, I’m an email or phone call away.

[1] Uzialko, Adam. Copyright Infringement: Are You Stealing Intellectual Property?, (updated Jun 29, 2022),

[2] Benjamin Daniels et al, Trade Secrets: What You Need to Know, Vol. XII, No. 186, The Nat’l Law Review (July 5, 2022).

[3] Id.

Emily E.G. Bradford

Emily is a business, IP, and employment lawyer based in Houston, TX. She has over 5 years of experience working with a variety of businesses in Texas and throughout the U.S. She previously served as the Managing Editor of Oklahoma City University School of Law’s Law Review and was named to the Texas Super Lawyers list of Rising Stars for 2022. No more than 2.5 percent of the young lawyers in Texas are selected to receive the Rising Stars honor.

As the founder of WedLawk, and being an entrepreneur herself, she is especially passionate about helping startups succeed. To learn more about Emily, visit the “About” page.