Intellectual property (IP) can set one business apart from another. Whether a process to make a product, a recipe or software, it is important to take steps to protect this valuable IP, whatever its form.
One legal tool that can offer protection is the use of a patent. A patent provides protection of certain types of intellectual property by essentially recognizing the invention as the property of the patent holder. In order to get this form of protection, the inventor would file for a patent with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). If approved, the inventor can keep others from using the protected material. This may, at times, require litigation.
If required, litigation often begins with the discovery process. This process generally involves gathering materials and records as well as taking depositions or interviews from various people that are involved in the issue. This could include internal communications. As a result, it is important to have clear guidelines dictating communications within the business about inventions. A failure to establish these rules can result in communications that could weaken the patent. One example recently noted by intellectual property experts involves the use of humorous phrases within internal document. An offhand remark within an email from one employee to another that a device is a “knock-off” could be revealed within discovery and may put patent protections at risk. Having clear guidelines and informing those who may discuss the invention within internal communications of proper communication etiquette can help to better ensure these protections survive a legal challenge.