Non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), trademarks, and copyrights are all legal measures you can use to keep your intellectual property safe, but each one has its limitations. In order to get the most out of each one, you need to know which situations trademarks and copyrights are best suited for, as well as which situations call for an NDA.
When to Use Trademarks
Trademarks are designed to protect marks or signs that distinguish your business from other businesses. For example, the name of your business, your logo, and your slogan could all be trademarked to protect that intellectual property in the event someone else tries to use it for their own business. The most obvious instance is when someone uses your business name or logo and tries to trick people into thinking they’re you so people will do business with them. As infringers have become more sophisticated, the more common occurrence of infringement tends to be when a very similar mark or logo is created in order to cause confusion to the consumer with respect to whom they are doing business with.
When to Use Copyrights
Copyrights are designed to protect original work, usually pieces of literature or artwork, but it can also apply to nonfiction. For example, if you write a business book to promote your products or services, that can also be copyrighted. The major difference in a copyright and trademark is that in order to qualify for a trademark, the design must be used in commerce. A copyright only requires that the person claiming the copyright is the original author.
When to Use Non-Disclosure Agreements
While trademarks and copyrights can be great for protecting certain types of content, they cannot protect ideas. If your business is still in the idea phase (or you have a new idea for part of your business), you might want to consider using an NDA if you need to talk to other people about your idea before it’s fully fleshed out. For example, if you’re meeting with venture capitalists about what it would look like to invest in your business, you’ll need to tell them about your idea. Asking them to sign an NDA is a way to protect your business idea before it’s gotten to the stage where you can trademark your business name, logo, slogan etc.
NDAs are also commonly used when your business works with vendors and contractors. Depending on the kind of work they do, they might get access to sensitive information about the way you run your business, including trade secrets, your client list, the list of your employees, etc. Having vendors sign an NDA before they start working with you is a step you can take towards protecting your business and the parts of your business that make it unique.
It’s worth noting that, while NDAs, trademarks, and copyrights are all disincentives for people to leave your intellectual property alone, they are not enough to stop people from taking your intellectual property and using it for their own benefit. However, they can provide you with a legal recourse if that happens, especially if there is a well-designed contract.
You can get a standard contract online, but those tend to come with loopholes that can be exploited, leaving your business vulnerable. Templates will have all of the boilerplate language necessary to create a functional document, but they often times miss State or industry specific particulars required to maximize their impact. To make sure your contracts are airtight, you’ll need a qualified attorney to at least look it over before you sign it.
Whether you’re thinking of starting a business, or you’ve been in business for a while and you want to make sure all your intellectual property is protected, the attorneys at Cunningham Lopez can create legally binding contracts that will help ensure you are the only one who profits from your business ideas. Call now to learn more!