Why Your Business Should Protect Its Intellectual Property (and How to Do It)

If your business is based on an original idea, technology or invention, then it’s likely that at some point in your career you are going to need to make an intellectual property application. So we’ve put together this handy guide to intellectual property applications and how to make them the right way.

Harley Davidson - patent pending
Harlely Davidson patent application

What is intellectual property?

The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) defines intellectual property as “creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce.”

Based on this definition, the following examples count as intellectual property:

  • The iPod.
  • The iPhone.
  • The Apple logo.
  • The name “Apple” when used in relation to computer products.

Other creative works less closely related to the world of tech entrepreneurship also count as intellectual property; such as novels, films and television programmes.

The protection of intellectual property has become a vital business practice in the 20th and 21st centuries, with countless companies being reliant on specific inventions, and cutthroat competition in the market encouraging some businesses to resort to stealing ideas to get ahead.

The best way to protect intellectual property is to get it covered by a patent. Indeed, most of the biggest businesses in the world hold thousands of patents. Our previous example, Apple, received a substantial 2,102 while computing giant IBM was granted 8,088 patents in 2016 alone.

Small and medium-sized businesses have no need to file anywhere near as many patents as these global corporations, but the number of patents they file does give an insight into just how important it is to protect intellectual property in business.

How to make an intellectual property application

Megacorporations that file thousands of patents per year will have an entire legal staff dedicated to the process, but as an independent entrepreneur, it is likely that you will have to oversee patent application yourself.

As this guide on how to prepare a patent application from Global Voices shows, an intellectual property application requires several documents: a patent specification, a written description of the invention, illustrations, and a summary of your specification. You can prepare all of these things yourself, or enlist the help of a nominated advisor for their added expertise.

Once you send these documents to the patent office of your territory, all you have to do is wait for the officials to decide whether or not to award you the patent. Simply filing the patent will grant you the ability to declare your invention “patent pending”, which will still give you some clout when it comes to keeping inventions from your competitors; other companies are less likely to try to copy your invention if it is midway through the patenting process for fear that it is accepted and you can take them to court.

Protecting intellectual property

Why would you need to secure your intellectual property?

A business doesn’t have to secure its intellectual property in order to keep running, but there are some serious risks to not filing for patents if you work in a competitive industry.

As the WIPO makes clear, the biggest risk to businesses relying on their unpatented technology is that somebody else might patent it. If this happens to you, you could end up getting sued for using something that you invented. This may sound unfair, but it’s just the way the system works.

Even if another business does not patent your invention, there is still the possibility that other businesses are copying your invention and profiting from it. They could even set up an entire enterprise based solely on your hard labour.

The only way to protect yourself from all of these potential outcomes is to file a patent on your intellectual property, and fast.