Intellectual property (IP) is a fundamental element to ensure a company’s solid competitive advantage over competitors, a strong market presence, and the creation of customer value. In this article, you will have an overview of how it is possible to protect intellectual property in Florida.
Protecting Business Intellectual Property in Florida – An Overview
Maintaining the Secrecy of Business Information
Even certain ideas can be considered intellectual property for a company. The ideal approach is to avoid sharing intellectual property-related ideas with everyone. Access to this type of information must be limited only to a few members of a company – and only when it is strictly necessary.
Depending on the circumstances, it is possible to use non-disclosure agreements. In this type of contract, employees agree not to disclose or use an employer’s trade secrets for the benefit of themselves or other third parties.
Under Florida law, a trade secret means “information, including a formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique, or process that:
- Derives independent economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known to, and not being readily ascertainable by proper means by, other persons who can obtain economic value from its disclosure or use, and
- Is the subject of efforts that are reasonable under the circumstances to maintain its secrecy”
If a piece of information is readily available, it will not be considered a trade secret by a Florida court in the event of a lawsuit. Accordingly, trade secret owners must apply the required effort to keep it secret, including:
- Limited access by employees, managers, directors, or any parties involved in the business activities
- Lock-and-key strategies
- The use of passcodes, encryption, and authentication policies
- Restrictions on the use of external or personal storage devices to interact with business information
Attention to Detail
Many business owners fail to give the required level of attention to intellectual property and intangible assets in general. Identifying and observing all intellectual property within a company is fundamental to protecting it.
Also, it is crucial to document all IP-related information, including dated notes and proper storage. For example, documenting the creative and development process behind a piece of intellectual property may provide solid legal grounds for defense if someone else challenges one’s ownership rights.
Constant audits are essential to maintain intangible assets shielded against misappropriation, infringement, and other similar issues. The best approach is to follow a “must-document” policy to preserve paperwork, dates, drawings, and any other IP-related archives.
Registering Different IP Assets at the State and Federal Levels
Certain formats of intellectual property are granted special legal protection upon registration with the appropriate government agency.
For example, the United States Patent and Trademarks Office (USPTO) is the federal government body that administers the registration and enforcement of trademarks and patents.
At the state level, it is also possible to file for trademark registration with the Florida Division of Corporations. While state registration has a limited scope of protection, federally registered trademarks are more expensive and complex to maintain.
Depending on specific characteristics, different creative works like art, writings, and music may qualify for protection under the US Copyright Office.