No doubt you the entrepreneur have worked a long time to pull the ideas and pieces together to build your business. You want to protect it. In this context, I often hear entrepreneurs talk about getting a copyright on their businesses.
That sounds great – copyright your business so no one can copy you. Except it doesn’t work that way. Copyright and intellectual property laws are designed to protect very specific things, not broad categories. For example, the copyright on a book protects its specific language and expressions but doesn’t keep someone else from expressing the same ideas. You may be able to protect a specific slogan or phrase but not your ideas.
You cannot copyright an entire business. You might be able to copyright specific components of the business, specific things you rely on for the business, specific things you use in the business. For example, you may have handouts or worksheets, or diagrams of process flows, or software that can be protected. But the idea of your business — the concept of the business and what you’re doing generally — cannot be protected with intellectual property law.
The challenge for many businesses, particularly newer businesses, is what to protect. It’s costly to protect something with intellectual property, so you want to protect the things you know have value. And sometimes you don’t know the value of what you have. We have to be practical. We have to figure out what needs to be protected and what needs to be left to chance. Common law may provide some protection. That is, you may not have to make formal fillings to get some protection, but generally, you want a greater degree of protection for your valuable things.
This is very complex. You need customized advice. Work with a legal team you trust to figure out what to include in your documents, where to focus your attention, and how to make the overall plan work.
What is your experience? Have you tried to be too broad with your copyrights? What are you doing that’s successful? Join us in the comments below and let us know.
Each case is unique. Past results do not guarantee future outcomes. This posting is intended to be a tool to familiarize readers with some of the issues discussed herein. This is not meant to be a comprehensive discussion and additional details should be discussed with your attorneys, accountants, consultants, bankers and other business planners who can provide advice for your circumstances. Each case is unique. Past results do not guarantee future outcomes. This article should not be treated as legal advice to any person or entity. FreeImages.com Photographer Michel Collot.
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