The investment in bringing new technology to market is significant. The process of protecting that investment needs to start at the very early stages of development.
Initially, it is important to identify the mechanisms for protecting the true value of your new technology. If the technology is novel and a non-obvious improvement over existing products, then it might be patentable. If it involves software that is not easily reverse engineered, then trade secret protection might be the appropriate path. If the brand is valuable, then registering a trademark should be considered. Some technology can be copyrighted.
The first question is whether an innovation can be patented. The second is whether it should be. Whether it is one patent or an entire portfolio, having a sound strategy is key.
Many patents address only the then-current commercial embodiment of the technology. While that is necessary, a well-written patent preemptively addresses design alternatives by describing not only the product itself, but future designs. To be best prepared to capture the most valuable aspects of the innovation, it is important to consider patent issues early in the product development cycle, and not merely as an afterthought when nearing the product’s release.
A trade secret is information that derives independent economic value from not being generally known, not being readily ascertainable, and is the subject of reasonable efforts to maintain its secrecy. Technology that cannot be easily reverse engineered is often a candidate for trade secret protection. But many innovators fail to preserve the protection they could secure by using appropriately tailored non-disclosure agreements, only making limited disclosure within the business, and by implementing proper policies and procedures. On the other hand, some businesses overcompensate by treating everything as a trade secret, which actually ends up backfiring by diluting the protection of the truly valuable information. A sound strategy is important to achieve proper trade secret protection.
Software code, website content, and blogs are commonly the subject of copyright protections. Registering your copyright allows a business to enforce its rights. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) provides a mechanism to notify ISP’s of infringing content. Knowing how and when to use these tools to capture the value of your work is critical to optimizing your IP protection.
A technology company’s most valuable IP may actually be its brand, especially in the case of mobile apps. This makes it important to protect that brand, as well as avoid infringing another’s.
Trademark searches and opinions can help a business identify a unique brand. Registering the appropriate trademarks can then help to protect it.
ASG Law can assist clients in the following areas: