Intellectual property is a concern for many people when outsourcing products, and for good reason. You have to take precautions to make sure you product is protected.

There are many steps you should take when protecting your IP. It’s important to note that it is impossible to with 100 percent certainty protect your intellectual property. There is no one size fits all solution to keeping it secure. However, there are steps you can take that will mitigate the risk of your product being compromised.

Copyright Laws

Copyrights protect a product from being duplicated. Copyrights usually extend to forms of media including books, movies, video games, music, and more. It’s important to note that copyright only protects the product from being duplicated, it does not protect an idea itself.

For example, if I wrote a book on how to change a tire, and then someone read my book and took my ideas and wrote their own book on how to change a tire without plagiarizing, then that would be legal. However if they copied word for word and put their name on it, that’s when the copyright laws would be enforced. Copyright also falls under “fair use” laws, meaning there are several exceptions in which someone could copy a person’s work with the use that it would not cause harm to the creator.

Since copyright laws are rather limited in scope, they are not an ideal method to protect your intellectual property, especially when it comes to the world of manufacturing. Copyrights are most appropriate for those in the media business like books, movies, and music.

Trademarks vs Patents

Trademarks simply protect your name, logo, emblem, or other forms of artwork. In some cases this can extend to mediums such as sound. For example the lion’s roar often seen in the beginning of movies produced by MGM is actually trademarked.

As far as protecting intellectual property, trademarks are pretty limited beyond protecting the name, sound, or smell of the product. Still, it’s a good idea to have a trademark to help establish your products identity and uniqueness and they are fairly inexpensive to get but it is still worthwhile to have one. You don’t want someone copying your name.

Utility Patent

Patents are great because they can protect your intellectual property for decades. Note that a product’s patent is only applicable to the country it was applied in. This means if you got a U.S. patent and someone copied your idea and sold it to a country in Europe, you wouldn’t have legal recourse. It’s a good idea to get patents in the main countries you are looking to sell your product in.

Utility Patents are the best patent you can get on a product. They protect the function of a product so someone can’t replicate a product that works like yours does. Though they offer the most protection, they also are more challenging to get and include a rigorous process to secure.

However they are well worth the investment and you should look into seeing if you can get one by contacting a patent lawyer.

Design Patent

Design patents will protect the aesthetic features of a product. These can be ideal to have if the form or appearance of your product is what makes it unique. While not as robust as utility patents, they are still worth getting, especially if you can’t get a utility patent on your product. If the design of the product is what makes it unique then you should definitely look into getting a design patent. Ideally you’d want both a utility patent and a design patent on your product if possible.

Non-Disclosure Agreement

Non-Disclosure Agreements or NDAs are a great way to put pen to paper and establish how confidential information will be handled. Not only does it establish the procedures of how information will be handled and by who, it also dictates the terms of accountability if something goes awry.

These steps you can take will go a long way to protecting and securing your intellectual property. The last thing you can do to help your IP remain secure is find trustworthy partners to work with. At Global Trade Specialists, we have been helping our partners manufacture their ideas safely in China for decades. Feel free to get in touch with us!