4 Types of Intellectual Property Florida Small Businesses Need to Protect
Florida Small Business IP Protection Strategies
When small businesses are first starting out in Florida, they often overlook the importance of protecting their intellectual property (IP). In fact, your business’s IP is probably one of the most valuable things that it owns. This is true both short and long term. Many different things that fall under the umbrella of IP, from trade secrets to trademarks to website code. Here are some different types of IP that your Florida small business might have overlooked. We’ve also offered some strategies you can use to protect the ideas integral to your business’s success.
1. Confidential Information and Material
Most Florida small businesses have IP that could be — or at least should be — considered to be “confidential information,” even if they don’t realize it. This primarily refers to ideas and concepts that aren’t property under Florida law, such as business and development plans or ideas for new products or services. There are two options available to small businesses in Florida looking to protect their confidential information.
The first option is to use attorney-drafted non-disclosure agreements, which are contracts in which an employer agrees to disclose private information within a certain scope while the other party agrees not to give that information away or to use it for their own purposes. The second option is to classify your confidential information as trade secrets. To qualify as a trade secret, the idea’s value must come from its inaccessibility to the general public. Your business must make reasonable precautions to protect it, too.
Typically, inventions are owned by the individual or group who first thought of the idea. Many business owners mistakenly think that their company owns any inventions conceived by their contractors or employees. In most of these situations, the company only owns the right to using the invention, and not the invention itself. If a small business wants to own any inventions, then they need that needs to be explicitly stated in the contract. Because of this, businesses involved in IP development should have a written agreement in place that assigns rights and ownerships to inventions to either the inventors or the company in no uncertain terms.
3. Works of Authorship
Works of authorship refer to IP, such as software codes, website content, and marketing materials, that are owned by their creators immediately upon their creation (either written down or typed out on a computer). There are exceptions to this, however, such as when employees make the work in the scope of their duties, or the work is done by contracts with special written agreements. Still, assuming that a given IP is “work for hire” can be costly if your Florida small business lacks a written contract or has failed to meet some other legal hurdle. Small businesses should exercise special caution when working with open source software as well. This can confuse what IP is owned by your Florida small business, and which are under license.