Big companies use a variety of strategies to protect their intellectual property. Small businesses generally aren’t concerned about their intellectual property because they just don’t think it’s worth it. However, there are a few things that small businesses can learn from the big boys. Most of what large companies do isn’t just to line the pockets of lawyers. It actually helps the business expand and grow.

Neglecting to use intellectual property law, or refusing to protect business property, may put a business out of business. Ironically, it’s the larger companies that can easily put smaller businesses out of business if the small business is ignorant of the strategies used by its larger counterpart. There’s a reason why big companies got so big. They creates products and services, and then hired a team of lawyers to protect those products and services from theft.

Use Trademarks

A trademark secures the rights to words or symbols. Big brands like Apple, J.C. Penny, Burger King, and even Target all have trademarks on their logos. They also spend millions of dollars building the brand. However, the trademark does serve a useful purpose. If a small business expects to grow, the trademark helps preserve the assets of the company.

As a small business starts to widen its reach, it will inevitably run into other businesses that are fierce competitors. Companies like Burger Kind are very good at making sure no one infringes on its property rights. Its trademarks are fiercely guarded. This is a smart move for small businesses too, since a trademarked name could also be the foundation of a product line.

Copyright Tactics

A copyright is a document that secures the rights to some piece of literary, musical, or cinematic material. It also secures the rights to play, print, publish, or perform said material. The music industry and MPAA are masters of copyright protection. They’ve devised systems to keep customers from copying practically anything that’s sold. Even digital downloads from sites like Amazon are protected.

Small businesses can benefit from this strategy by embedding proprietary marketing stories, video, audio, and any other interactive media with copy protection code. Hiding customer-only material behind a membership site also enhances security. One of the dangers a small business faces these days is the proliferation of sharing.

Bittorrent sites promise users a way to steal media files. A large company may be able to absorb the loss in revenue while it works to remove the material from such sites. However, a small business may not have the resources to constantly battle Internet piracy. Preventing theft from happening in the first place is a great way to stop the problem before it ever starts.

File Patents

Patents are legal documents that secure the rights to some invention. A company may file and secure a patent on a cell phone, for example. In fact, one company has practically done just that and it’s defended its invention ruthlessly. Apple has almost generated a second income from the patent infringement lawsuits it files. That’s an interesting takeaway from the Cupertino technology company. Small businesses do have assets. Maybe they’re not as Earth shattering as the iPhone. However, they’re probably still worth protecting.

Hiring a lawyer is usually worth it when a small business has created a product that it thinks has the potential to sell well in the marketplace. Really, every unique product should be patented since some products may sell unexpectedly. A small business doesn’t want to lose business or be forced out of the marketplace because a competitor used its invention without permission.

Guest post contributed by Hayley Spencer, on behalf of Lawyers.com, providers of legal help and resources on various topics, including intellectual property law.