In today’s fast-paced, technology- and media-driven business environment, it pays to know the basics of intellectual property law.  Knowing when to ask for expert advice is essential.

In relation to intellectual property, business owners and managers should keep in mind two key objectives:

1. Maximization of IP value. Different types of IP — trademarks, service marks, trade secrets, copyrights, patents — are more or less important to a business depending on its revenue model and stage of development. Often, the first time an entrepreneur encounters IP is when choosing a company name and website domain. On the other hand, many new businesses spring from trade secret-, patent- or copyright-related development done by employees during their free time. Whatever the stage of your business, growing and protecting the value of your intellectual property portfolio is an important ongoing activity.

2. Avoiding infringement claims. All too often, new businesses stumble by trampling on IP already owned by another business. New employees can present special risks if they carry valuable IP with them from former employers. Mounting a legal defense to an infringement claim can be very costly. Attorney’s fees drain cash and business opportunities are lost because litigation is so time-consuming and distracting.

Some IP tasks, such as acquiring corporate or domain names are handled easily by non-attorneys.  Others, such as applying for patents or registering trademarks require expert assistance. The accompanying Intellectual Property Primer highlights basic IP concepts and issues.