New business ventures are often predicated on information that has value as long as it is not disclosed to competitors. The law offers many ways to protect intellectual property, but many of these methods are not suitable for newly established enterprises. This post will point the way toward the cheapest and most effective methods of protecting a company’s valuable ideas.
Legal protection for intellectual property
Perhaps the best known method of protecting an idea is obtaining a patent from the United States Government. Unfortunately, very few new businesses have ideas that qualify for patent protection. Also, a new business may not want to foot the bill for the lawyers and technical personnel necessary to obtain a patent.
A second protection is a copyright, but copyrights only protect published information. A copyright, by its nature, cannot protect a scientific or engineering invention. A trademark, like a copyright, is not very helpful for a startup because, while trademarks are easy to obtain, they offer little or no protection for customer lists, design information, or similar intellectual property.
The last remaining category of intellectual property is also the broadest: trade secrets.
How to protect a trade secret
A trade secret is defined as information having economic value that is generally unknown to the public. Texas has adopted the Uniform Trade Secrets Act, a statute that defines trade secrets and provides methods for enforcing the protection offered to intellectual property. Another advantage of the trade secret act is that it gives the owner of the trade secret the right to define the nature of the intellectual property in employment agreements with its key personnel. Thus, a trade secret can be defined as customer lists, sales records, company earnings and other information that is not readily eligible for protection with a patent, copyright, or trademark.
Seeking the right guidance
The field of intellectual property law can be very complicated. Any entrepreneur who wants to protect confidential information will find advice from an experienced intellectual property attorney to be very helpful. A knowledgeable attorney can help a businessman identify confidential information and choose the most effective form of legal protection.