What Is Intellectual Property?
Intellectual property is a legal term that refers to the creations of the mind. Businesses use IP to protect their inventions, designs and brands from being copied by competitors. It's also used as a way for creators or innovators to earn recognition for their work and make money on it (such as through royalties). The most important part of IP protection is ensuring your business can't be copied by other companies who may want to take advantage of the hard work you've done building a brand and product line.
The Different Types of Intellectual Property
There are three main types of intellectual property: copyright, trademark and patent.
Copyright protects original works such as books, songs, movies and artwork. It gives the creator exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute and adapt their work.
Trademark protects logos, slogans and brand names. It gives the owner exclusive rights to use their mark to identify their products or services.
And patent protects inventions such as new machines, processes and drugs. It grants the inventor the authority to prevent others from creating, using, or selling their invention without their authorisation.
How Having An Intellectual Property Strategy Helped Me Sell My Business
Once upon a time, an enormous organization tried to sue me. They tried to bully me out of business. But in a classic David versus Goliath fight, I emerged victoriously.
This happened a few years ago when I developed a product for my fitness brand, Beast Gear. I came up with a general design and worked with a professional designer to make that a reality. I used the services of a reputable Intellectual Property (IP) firm that took my products drawings and used them as the basis of a design registration which was filed in all the countries where I was selling my product.
Note that it's critical to have an intellectual property strategy in place to protect your invention or design. A registered design protects something's appearance, whereas a patent protects something's functionality or how it works.
In the case of my product, the functionality was not novel; it was already in the public domain, and I couldn't and didn't need to patent it, so I registered it. Anyway, my product was fantastic; it outperformed everything else in this category, and I sold it at a reasonable price, in contrast to the market leader. My product quickly became the most popular in the space. The previous market leader, which was owned by a large corporation, tried some shady tactics but couldn't keep up with me.
They had my product suspended, and they sent me threatening letters demanding that I pay them tens of thousands of dollars and immediately stop selling my product.
Long story short, I've won. How?
One, my product did not infringe on this competitor's registered design; we already knew this was a lie. Two, their own registered design, which was a collection of pretty bad drawings, did not actually protect their own product. Which was kinda funny. But needless to say, they left me alone and my product has since grown and is now the market leader.
Final thoughts, what's the takeaway here?
What's the one tip you can implement in your e-commerce business to help it grow?
Make a note of this: you need a proactive and defensive intellectual property strategy from the get-go, you need to protect your designs with design registrations and patents if applicable, you need to trademark your brand names and product names, and you need to hire a professional to do all of this.
Don't attempt to do this yourself. I see it all the time in Facebook groups where people say things like, "my attorneys quoted me this much money for my trademark; it seems excessive; what should I do?"
Don't respond with, "Oh, you can do it yourself for a few hundred pounds or a few hundred bucks." You can do it yourself, and you will get a trademark, but it is very likely that it will be incorrect and will not provide you with the full scope of protection that you require because you are not a professional attorney.
Focus on what you do best and hire a professional to protect you properly.