A small business’ total offering that they provide to customers includes 3 critical pieces:
1. Product: A product can be anything that is tangible. Examples include nail polish, food, or a backpack.
2. Service: A service is an activity that is done for you. Examples include getting your nails done, being served at a restaurant, or having a porter carry your bags to your room at a hotel.
3. Intellectual Property: Intellectual property is the knowledge and information that your business has that allows you to deliver the product or service differently than the competition. Examples include getting a back massage while your nails dry, the recipes of the food you eat at a restaurant, and the design of a bag or backpack.
The main ways to protect intellectual property including copyrights, patents, trademarks, industrial design, and trade secrets is covered in the video by a leading law firm, Miller Thomson.
Getting cash in the door can help a small business significantly. Not having the cash means that you could be paying interest to someone else. Not having the cash means you might not be able to have as much inventory available to sell or start a marketing campaign when you wanted. So getting cash in the door earlier rather than later can help.
Secondly, what happens if the cash never shows up for a service rendered? We spoke to a paralegal, Allison MacSporran, to get her take on how to avoid this scenario.
Think you have a milllion dollar idea that you want to patent?
Million dollar ideas are common. Almost everyone comes up with an idea that eventually becomes a million dollar idea.
So why not patent everything you think of? There are a few downsides.
1. Patenting is extremely expensive and you have to patent internationally due to globalization and sometimes that is simply not possible.
2. When patenting, you have to detail what is novel about your idea. Organizations including Coca-Cola and Caramilk have elected to not file for a patent as they feel their intellectual propoerty is better protected by simply keeping it a company secret.
3. Patents only work when you are willing and able to sue an organization that has infringed your patent. If you don’t have the funds or a lawyer who is willing to work with you on contingency, you aren’t able to leverage the patent.
However! Patents are extremely important where you need to protect yourself for the 20 year timeframe it supports (pharmaceuticals). Patents can be important when you need to register your idea before the competition does and blocks you out of the market. Patents are great when you have the financial backing to protect yourself.
There are other options to help protect your ideas.
Copyrighting applies to anything written. Copyrighting is cheaper (free) and applicable to software and code writing. You can add a copyright to anything that you have written.
2. Keep It Secret.
Follow some industry leaders and have policies that protect anything that you deem as intellectual property. This can be documentation, processes, programming, or ideas. Simply don’t let just anyone know what you know.
3. Continue Inventing.
You have to assume someone is going to find a way to copy you. So the only true way to stay ahead of the competition is to keep re-inventing yourself and stay ahead. If Apple rested on its patents, it simply wouldn’t be Apple!