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Protecting Your Intellectual Property

This article is from my monthly column for the Kitsap Business Journal…

Be smart with your smarts — Protecting your intellectual property brand

August 31, 2010 @ 10:17am | Dan Weedin

It never ceases to amaze me how often I see business professionals overlook protecting their intellectual property and brand. How do you do this? Let’s start by backing up and discussing the concepts of intellectual capital and intellectual property.

“Intellectual capital” is what’s between your ears. It’s your industry “smarts” that you’ve accumulated over time through experience, education, and knowledge. “Intellectual property” is the manifestation of that intellectual capital through products and resources like books, articles, white papers, teleconferences, videos, workshops, speeches, systems, etc.

Intellectual capital is critical for people in professional services industry, e.g. consultants, speakers, architects, attorneys, web and graphic designers, and technology gurus to name a few. These folks make their money because business owners and executives sorely need their “smarts.” However, there are growing numbers of other entrepreneurs who are discovering ways to harness their genius into intellectual property to generate additional income and gravity.

Here are my rules of thumb in dealing with creating and protecting your intellectual capital and property:

Don’t just give away all of your “smarts.” Yes, you should make your articles, blog posts, video blogs, and executive white papers free. Giving away a certain amount of your expertise is needed to gain credibility, create momentum, and raise awareness. However, you need to know where to draw the line. You invested blood, sweat, tears, and money on your “smarts.” Don’t give it all away.

Create intellectual property. Find ways to provide value to others by reaching them in different ways. This is critical for those in the professional services business, but also in other industries. Here are a few examples — blogging, YouTube video, social media platforms, booklets, e-Books, manuals, publishing, and workshops. Spend at least an hour a week in “creative mode,” and consider ways to provide value in clever ways.

Be in the moment. Some of the best ideas for intellectual property that I’ve used have been provided to me by other people. Keep your ears and mind open. Believe it or not, our prospects and clients know what they want and need better than we do! They often tell us in ways that we are not ready to assimilate, so we need to stay in the moment and be excellent listeners.

Copyright and trademark your work. Everything you create that is your own needs to include the copyright mark — ©. You need to include the year, who owns the IP, and the words, “All Rights Reserved.” You have the right to copyright all your work — articles, videos, blog posts, etc. There are no requirements to doing this, other than the work must be your own. I even copyright my proposals because they are proprietary.

If you have a brand that is unique to you, consider trade marking it. If it’s a specific brand name, training, or workshop, you want to make sure it’s name is exclusive to you. I’m not an attorney, so I can’t give you the entire process. Contact a trademark attorney to find out.

Track your name and brand through Google Alerts. It’s a free service and will update you daily on where your name and brand are appearing in cyberspace. You can also check for plagiarism through outlets like Copyscape.

Creating intellectual property is important for every single business out there and that includes yours. It’s an opportunity to improve the condition of others with your “smarts,” as well as generate revenue for you. Find time in your week to be creative and listen to what your clients and prospects are telling you they want. Create intellectual property in various forms and then protect it with copyright and trademark. This final part is crucial to minimizing plagiarism and improper use of your work. Be smarts with your “smarts!”

© 2010 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved

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