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A Good Business Owns Its IP

November 23rd, 2010 :: Thursday Bram

Intellectual property is rapidly becoming one of the most valuable assets many businesses have. Think about a company like Google, built entirely on computer code and other intellectual property that the business has developed. It’s not just a matter of what big businesses create, either. Smaller businesses have plenty of intellectual property of their own. From proprietary processes to the logo on your business card, intellectual property is what sets businesses apart.

That’s why it’s so astounding that there are businesses out there that don’t own any of what might otherwise be considered their intellectual property. There are companies that rely on others’ intellectual property to function. That might mean paying for access to the processes that your employees follow for day to day work or it may mean that a graphic designer is the actual owner of your logo and other promotional materials.

The Question of Ownership

In many cases, intellectual property comes with a hefty price tag. Something that can sound relatively simple — like developing your own process to complete a given project — can be surprisingly expensive, as well as require a sizable investment of time. But that cost is upfront. It’s the difference between buying office space and paying rent. While there’s a big price that goes along with buying property, for many types of businesses that plan to be in the same spot year after year, the actual total cost is much lower.

But while buying property may be out of reach for many small businesses, making sure you own your intellectual property is much closer. The main reason that most businesses choose, for instance, to only pay for their immediate graphic design needs is that the cost for the finished product is lower than the cost of getting all of the files involved, including an editable version of your logo. The price difference can be huge and if you aren’t able to edit your projects for the future yourself, it may seem pointless.

Legalities and Price

If your contract with your graphic designer says that the designer retains ownership of the ads and other intellectual property related to your business’ marketing, you may be in trouble if you want to take an ad created for a print publication and put it online. There are other legal problems that can pop up, depending on the intellectual property involved. By paying more at the start, you can avoid the legal fees that could go along with a problem later on, as well as put yourself in a position where you simply can use your intellectual property any way you choose.

If you have any concerns about your intellectual property (or who owns the intellectual property you routinely use), consulting with a legal professional who specializes in intellectual property should be your first stop.

Image by Flickr User Horia Varlan (Creative Commons)

DISCLAIMER: The information posted in this blog is provided for informational purposes. Legal information is not the same as legal advice — the application of law to an individual’s specific circumstances. The information presented here is not to be construed as legal or tax advice. Network Solutions recommends that you consult an attorney or tax consultant if you want professional assurance that the information posted, and your interpretation of it, is appropriate to your particular business.