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What is Intellectual Property (IP)? Do I have any? Is it worth protecting?

What is “Intellectual Property”?

The term, as used in the US legal lexicon, describes the rights that can be held by a person or entity in intangible things. For example, these intangible things can be inventions and designs (patents), reputation (trademarks), original expressions (copyright), or business know-how (trade secret). The intangible things may have or take on tangible forms, but the “property” is the rights themselves. There are similarities between ordinary property rights and intellectual property rights. These may include the right to own, sell, license, use, modify, etc.

Do I have any?

If you're unsure whether you have IP, a thorough reveiw of your business or personal assets can be conducted by a knowledgeable IP attorney. Valuable IIP may be hiding in plain sight in the form of logos, marketing materials, customers lists, in-house tools, in-house techniques, or distinctive item packaging to name a few.

Is it worth protecting the IP?

Upon review, you may discover that you have IP worth protecting. More importantly, you may discover whether it is worth spending a lot or only very little to protect. It can be difficult to predict the value of IP, but its well known that IP that has been protected is worth more than the IP that has been lost or devalued by careless management. Some factors to consider include: who is the target market if using/practicing/producing the IP? Who is the target market if selling/licensing the IP for another to use/practice/produce? What advantage does the IP provide you? How readily ascertainable is the IP? What did it cost you to acquire? How much will it cost you to use/practice/produce? Is the field of competitors large or small? Is the IP used in house or publicly? What risks or liabilities might the use of the IP incurr? - These and more should be evaluated for each IP you identify.

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