man protecting his investment

The Value of a Good Idea

Why you should always protect your intellectual property

My first business was a nylon-and-Velcro wallet business. It was the 1980’s and we got the rights to make the wallets with the screen-printing of the names of popular bands of the time. It was very successful, and I thought I was a real business genius.

When I was planning the business, I spoke with an attorney about a patent for my idea. When I found out that it was going to cost $10,000 in fees to file for my patent, I decided it was too expensive and not important.

Another company quickly came along and copied my idea, and there was nothing I could do about it. Eventually, my business failed and I lost millions of dollars. Suddenly, that $10,000 didn’t seem like so much money, and I didn’t feel like such a business genius either.

Are your ideas protected?

The world is filled with business people and smart entrepreneurs with great ideas who began selling their products or ideas before protecting them. In the world of intellectual property, once your idea is exposed, it is almost impossible to protect.

My hope is that you won’t become one of these people. If you have a great idea or product, an essential component to success is securing that idea by having solid legal protection in place. This is especially true in the Information Age, when anyone can steal your ideas with a search engine and a few clicks.

Who’s on your team?

Rich dad always said, “Business is a team sport.” And in business, your intellectual property attorney and your contract attorney are some of the most important people on your team because they help you protect your most important assets—your ideas and products. If you find good attorneys, they’ll keep the intellectual bandits away.

Your attorneys will help create the necessary documents and do the proper filing to secure your intellectual property in the form of patents, trademarks, and copyrights. These are some of the most valuable assets you can own, and they are called intangible assets.

The legal documents your attorney creates will grant you specific protection and ownership of your intellectual property. Without this type of protection, you risk losing everything.

Make your ideas work for you

Once you have protected your rights, not only can you keep others from using your property, but you can also sell or license those rights and receive royalty income when doing so. And that’s a perfect example of making your assets work for you.

At the end of the day, legal work can be expensive; so many people skimp on it—to their disadvantage. As they say, “In life, you get what you pay for.” As a business owner, if you go cheap on legal, it can cost you a lot more down the road.

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Original publish date: April 21, 2015

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