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In the Know

Find out all you can about patents, trademarks and copyrights now--your business will thank you later.

This story appears in the June 2007 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

You wouldn't open your office for business but then go home without locking up, right? That's essentially what you're doing if you don't secure your business ideas. By taking the proper steps, you can protect your trademarks, trade secrets and product design and packaging with intellectual property laws.

Chicago attorney Kara E.F. Cenar of Bell, Boyd & Lloyd says that entrepreneurs should start thinking about these issues earlier than most do. "Small businesses tend to delay securing intellectual property protection because of the expense," Cenar says. But a business that hasn't applied for copyrights or patents, registered its trade name and trademark, or protected its trade secrets--and actively defended them--may have trouble making its case in court.

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