If you’ve been following along, you’ve likely noticed I’m talking a lot lately about “Levelling Up.” I like to think of it as a video game – you’ve avoided a certain number of bombs, jumped mushrooms, or climbed up a predetermined number of ladders (Hello, Super Mario!) – and you’re ready to move on to the next level in the game.
Except, as I mapped out in “What in the Heck is Levelling Up? And is YOUR Business Ready?” “The Corporate Structure Needed to Hit 7 Figures” and “Spin Your Corporate Structure Web and Lure Investors” – levelling up with your business is a heck of a lot more complicated – and risky – than levelling up in a video game!
In this next series, we’re going to dissect the next steps to gain entry into the 7 Figures Club – whether or not you are ready for franchising, and how you can make bank from your intellectual property.
Let’s get started!
The Ins and Outs of Intellectual Property
Today’s economy has moved further and further toward a knowledge-based system. And that’s where your intellectual property comes into play.
According the Canadian Intellectual Property Office:
“Intellectual assets are “intangible” assets. They include inventions, new technologies, new brands, original software, novel designs, unique processes, and much more. These assets have value in the marketplace very much like tangible assets, or assets that you can hold in your hand.”
Trademarks, patents, your brand, databases, trade secrets, etc., are some of the most important assets your business holds.
Maximize Your Intellectual Property by Protecting It
Your first steps should be to ensure that your IP is 100% protected.
Lost sales, increased marketing costs, potential loss of your good name – all of this can happen when you don’t protect your IP – and will end up costing you way more than the act of protecting your brand at the outset will.
If you don’t have your trademark registered already – get that done, like YESTERDAY! Here’s how a properly registered trademark (hint hint – use a trademark lawyer!) protects your intellectual property:
- It clarifies that the trademark is yours.
- Gives you exclusive rights to use the trademark across Canada for 10 years (you can renew that indefinitely).
- Stops others from using a confusingly similar trademark.
- Allows you to flag infringements by others.
- And it helps you license or franchise your trademark, which you can use to make money and increase your brand’s popularity (we’re getting to that part!)
Then, double check and see if you have to copyright any of your work. Copyrighting your property gives YOU – and you only – the sole right to produce or reproduce a work or a substantial part of it in any form. “That includes the right to perform the work or any substantial part of it or, in the case of a lecture, to deliver it. If the work is unpublished, copyright includes the right to publish the work or any substantial part of it.”
If your company is involved in any of the following, consult with a lawyer about legal copyright:
- Literary works: books, pamphlets, computer programs, etc.
- Films, plays, screenplays, scripts, etc.
- Musical works created by you or your company.
- Artistic works – including brand logos, photography, plans and sketches, etc.
Basically, if you’ve created ANYTHING – start with the assumption that you own it. And then look at specific laws that will help you protect it and retain a monopoly over it. That’s what the Trademarks Act, Copyright Act and the Patent Act does. These are specific, government-enacted laws that ensure that whatever comes out of that creative brain of yours? Remains YOURS. To infinity and beyond!
A Few Final Tips
Ok. All of that might sound a bit obvious. I created something. It’s mine. I’m making money off it. And I want to protect that. Right?
But as a busy entrepreneur, it’s easy to miss other important steps when protecting your intellectual property – those small, hidden issues that aren’t there staring you in the face. Here are a few to keep an eye out for – and yet another reason why I recommend having a qualified business lawyer cast an eye over any contracts you create for your business (Helloooo? *waves* LOL).
- Use subcontractors? Make sure that anyone who has input on your intellectual property has agreed in writing that you own those words, designs, images, what have you.
- What about employees? Do you have strict confidentiality clauses in all your contracts? Are your employees up to speed on what your intellectual property actually IS? If not, get on that pronto.
- Finally, don’t forget about suppliers, clients, and/or customers. Make sure any contracts (franchising or licensing, for example) are vetted to ensure you don’t accidentally give away more of your intellectual property than agreed upon.
Speaking of franchising – that’s next in the Levelling UP series! Watch this space for more!