Often times, most people believe that they don’t need to protect their company brand or other related intellectual property. Unfortunately for these individuals, they soon learn that protecting their intellectual property could have saved them money, time, and the rights to the hard earned property that they have developed.
If you have developed a business with a name and a product, whether that product is tangible or a service, then you would be wise to consider protecting these items, even prior to sharing this information with employees. Review the guidelines below and contact us today, to properly secure your intellectual property.
At a Minimum Consider Implementing a Nondisclosure Agreement
Business owners, particularly small business owners, usually hire employees with the thought that they can trust these individuals completely. The truth is if you are planning to share your intellectual property with your employees then you need to protect this property from being stolen and used in capacities that do not relate to your business.
One way to accomplish this is to implement the use of a nondisclosure agreement into your hiring process. This will require new hires to sign a document stating that they will not take and use your creative intellectual property for any other purposes other than for their position within your company. Employees who sign these confidential agreements acknowledge the company’s confidences that include, but are not limited to trade secrets and client lists. While many people innately know to protect their products or inventions, often intellectual property, that business owners developed, goes unprotected.
A nondisclosure agreement is a simple way to protect your business and your future interests; however, the agreement must contain certain legal terminology to ensure that your particular property is properly protected. This is why seeking legal advice from a qualified attorney is the best way to ensure that you and your business are protected to the fullest degree.
Establishing this step will also aid you in avoiding costly litigation, which can occur from lawsuits. Once a situation occurs and you have not used a nondisclosure agreement or some other legal method to protect your property, the legal process can become quite costly.
You May Need a Trademark
Trademarks can provide protection to your business and more specifically to your business name. For businesses that are larger and doing business on an international scale, the process is a little more involved. However, the cost of going to court after a name dispute occurs can be far more costly in both time and money. Litigation can also end with a loss of the name and property that you worked hard to create and protect.
The trademark process may seem daunting to some individuals. You may believe that you don’t need a trademark as you are a small business owner with a small business. The truth of the matter is being small is just another reason why it is important to protect yourself. Large corporations can, in most cases, cover legal fees for litigation. But, for small businesses, often times the owner’s entire livelihood is on the line.
In order to avoid finding yourself in a costly litigation process, it is best to contact a trusted and qualified attorney who can assist you with deciding whether a trademark registration is right for you and your business.
Consider Your Trade Secrets
California is one of the many states that have adopted the Uniform Trade Secrets Act. Many business owners may think that trade secrets do not apply to them; however, even a secret sauce could be considered a trade secret.
Trade secrets most times encompasses customer lists, sensitive marketing information, unpatented inventions, software, formulas and recipes, techniques, processes, and other business information that provides a company with a business edge.
Whether your business is a restaurant or marketing company, it is highly likely that you have valuable trade secrets that are worthy of being protected. These items are valuable to your business, as they give your business a competitive edge or are the main service or product that your business offers and other businesses do not.
Consider carefully, your potential trade secrets and contact us today to discuss your options in protecting those secrets. The importance in protecting them lies both in potential thefts from employees, but also even the threat of theft of these items. It is also important to note that along with California’s trade secret laws, federal laws also apply, knowing these laws or at least being aware of them is important in understanding how you can protect your valuable business secrets.
What to do if Your Intellectual Property has been Compromised
California law works to protect business owners and their businesses from having their intellectual property stolen, threatened to be stolen, or misappropriated by individuals. An important note to consider is that these individuals must know or have reason to know, that the trade secret was acquired by improper means, meaning through methods of: theft, bribery, misrepresentation, breach or inducement of a breach of duty to maintain secrecy.
However, because the law is written in a way that isn’t necessarily easy to understand by the lay person, prosecution of certain misappropriations can be pursued even in cases when a company did not know or have reason to know that they were using purloined trade secrets.
Another important piece of information regarding trade secrets is that, an action for misappropriation must be brought within 3 years after the misappropriation is discovered or by the exercise of reasonable diligence should have been discovered. This means your time is limited in filing a lawsuit and pursuing legal vindication if your trade secrets or intellectual property has been compromised.
Intellectual property, trademarks, and trade secrets are vital to all businesses. Whether the business is a large corporation or a small business, if your property and business secrets are not protected you could face losing thousands of dollars in both business and recuperation.
In order to properly protect your business and your business interests, consider your legal rights in regards to protecting the very items that make your business both unique and competitive. Contact us today to discuss what legal options are available to you and best for you and your business.
For questions, or to schedule a consultation, contact us today at 559.¬431.4888 (Fresno) or 619.399.7700 (San Diego).