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howto   For small businesses, protecting your ideas – that is, your intellectual property – involves patents, trademarks, trade dress, and websites. Any business with original artwork, photography, computer programs, inventions, writing and/or a distinctive brand should consider protecting their intellectual property from theft.

Small businesses may lack the knowledge, expertise, or resources to prevent their intellectual property from being stolen. A study by the USPTO found that, astoundingly, only 15 percent of small businesses conducted business overseas knew to file for intellectual property protection abroad.

This being said, here are several ways to protect your small business’s ideas.


Though many small businesses don’t have products or services that can be patented, it’s worth knowing that they can protect any inventions they come up with with patents. What’s more, patents can open doors for licensing and cross-licensing opportunities.


A trademark is a combination of signs or images distinctive to your small business. Think of it as claiming your brand so that no one can copy legally it. In this sense, trademarking protects your business for the long-run.


Work is much easier to steal and copy with the Internet, which is an issue many small businesses are facing. However, when you copyright your work, your the only one who can use it in anyway you like. The great thing is once you’ve created and shared your work, copyright laws are automatically enforced. Therefore, if anyone tries to take your work without a license they will get in trouble for it.

Some things that apply to copyright laws are web content and copy, graphics, and marketing materials.

Protecting Your Data

It’s a good idea to have a security plan involving mobile device policies, social networks, and trade secrets to make sure that all of your data is protected. Furthermore, you can security tools like MobileIron to assist your data protection.

If you would like to learn more about intellectual property for small businesses, visit our website.


1. “Why should small businesses protect their intellectual property?” (stopfakes.gov)

2. “Unleashing Small Business Through IP” (Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council)