Vincent Price would say in an eerie voice that “The time is nigh again.” The stores are loaded with great treats, your neighborhood has more cobwebs and tombstones than usual, and the leaves are losing their luster. Halloween, All Hallows Eve, or as my kids like to dub it, “the night we get LOTS of candy” has traditions stretching back centuries encouraging us to protect ourselves from the ghosts and goblins that prowl the night.
While we prepare to experience this great holiday, this is a good time to remember to protect your ideas from specters and haunts. Your concepts, inventions, branding items, and business strategies all have inherent value that require protection in one form or another. Like strings of garlic or containers of holy water, strong safeguards exist to help you protect yourself from a bite on the neck from vampire competitors and grave robbing ghouls.
Here are some treats to help others from tricking you:
Protect Your Trademarks
Think of superscript TM (™) as a Jack-O-Lantern that lets others know what you consider to be your trademarks. Just as the light of the Jack-O-Lantern is thought to protect you and your property by keeping away unwanted creepy crawlies, use TM on your trademarks so that others pass by your intellectual property like a spectral locomotive in the night.
If you want the ability to expand your business, register your trademarks federally. Otherwise, you may find that others can trap you in the haunted house of limited trademark protection.
Protect Your Trade Secrets
Board up the windows, lock the doors, and keep your trade secrets locked safely away. Take precautions such as passwords, digital security, locked rooms, etc., to keep your confidential business information out of the reaching hands of zombies that, figuratively, want your brains.
Like sealing a mummy in a tomb, proper employment documentation can help you keep your trade secrets in the vault where they belong. Make use of employment agreements, confidentiality agreements, employment policies, etc., that can help prevent you from howling at the moon when an employee tries to leave with valuable information.
Protect Your Patentable Subject Matter
Feed your Frankenstein. New inventions are not only the mainstay of commerce but help a business profit and expand. However, when you invent your new monster, whether it is a new utility patent on how something works or a new design patent on how something looks, be sure not to yell “It’s Alive!” too soon. Informing others of your inventions without having a patent application on file, or not having proper nondisclosure documentation in place, can lead to a true house of horrors.
Also, make sure that your mad scientists sign assignments clearly explaining who gets to take the monster home at night.
Protect Your Business
Shine the light on other things that go bump in the night! Be wary of Internet self-help, e.g., freely available documentation, and one-stop-shop intellectual property protection groups. Just like using a Ouija® board alone can expose one to malevolent forces, using these services may backfire.
Do not ignore your IP. If you do not protect it, no one will and it may be lost like a ghost ship in the Bermuda Triangle.
Like any good scary story, this ends with a warning. Beware of failing to protect your ideas from ghosts and goblins! If you decide to simply whistle-past-the-graveyard and take no action, you may receive a Thriller© of your own when someone contests your ability to use your own intellectual property or uses your ideas to their benefit and profit.