You have a great idea and you want to protect it. But keeping your work safe means understanding the limits of the safeguards available. Here are some common myths about intellectual property that can keep help you plan accordingly.
Myth: I only need one patent and then I'm set.
Reality: If you want your company to go global, it isn’t enough to file once with the U.S. Patent Office. In every country you aim to expand to, you have to file for a patent with those governments. You’ll also have to be aware of the nuances and differences in each country's patent laws and the processes to maintain them (i.e. fees, paperwork and the intervals at which you must renew them to stay current).
Read more: 7 Persistent Myths About Intellectual Property
Myth: Since my business is completely new and different, I can take my time with filing for a patent.
Reality: Even if you think you are the first in your industry, there could be another entrepreneur in a different field developing a similar technology. And just being the first to invent something doesn’t make that patent is automatically yours. In 2013, the U.S. Patent Office shifted from a "first-to-invent" to a "first-to-file" system, so it's important to meet with a patent attorney as early as you can to make sure you are protected.
Read more: 10 Myths On How To Patent An Idea Or Invention
Myth: Copyrights, patents and trademarks and trade secrets are interchangeable.
Reality: These all deal with different aspects of protecting your intellectual property. Copyrights are meant to "protect works of authorship," according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office – meaning artistic works like music, paintings, and books. Patents are for original inventions and trademarks act as an ID for your company – it's the phrase, logo, symbol or word that differentiates you from the pack. Trade secrets are the elements of your business that are unique and proprietary to you. They can be data, design, customer lists, ingredients and formulas. It isn't possible to copyright or patent a trademark.
Read more: 7 Biggest Myths Business Owners Believe About Using Copyrighted Material
Reality: It's possible. But most investors want more than a patent. They’ll be looking at your team and your business plan, to be sure that you have what it takes to make your company viable. Entrepreneurs who stand out for investors can juggle a business’ many moving parts.
Read more: The Hard Truth About How Much Your Invention is Really Worth