Free Enterprise - The FindLaw Small Business Law Blog

Top 5 Patent Questions for Small Businesses

You founded your company around one great idea, and you want to protect it. Or that one great idea has led to a lot more great ideas and you need to protect those. And if your great idea is a new invention, product, or process, you're probably going to need a patent to protect it.

Unfortunately, patent law can be especially confusing, even for the experts. Here are five questions small businesses face when it comes to patents, and where you can find answers:

1. How Do Patents, Trademarks, Copyrights Differ?

If you're running a small business, you might have a new product, and new business name, and possibly new published material, like software or code. Find out what is protected under patent law, and what you might need copyrights and trademarks for.

2. Can I Patent My Employees' Good Ideas?

You want to your employees to be creative and innovative. You just don't want them becoming your competition. Normally, any invention is the inventor's property and they retain all patent rights until they transfer, assign, or sell them to another party. Find out how that could be different in your small business.

3. What Is a Patent Troll?

You've probably been hearing a lot about patent trolls lately, and how they can make a startup's life a living hell. But what actually makes a patent holder a troll, and how can you avoid their wrath?

4. Can the FTC Finally Rid Us of Patent Trolls?

Speaking of trolls, the Federal Trade Commission is working on some proposals to limit their damage. The FTC refers to them as "patent assertion entities" or PAEs, and is hoping that informing courts and defendants about the worst PAEs and possible infringement defenses can bring the trolls out into the light.

5. Does Your Business Need an Intellectual Property Audit?

As we mentioned at the top, a small business can have a variety of intellectual property concerns -- from patents to copyrights to trademarks -- and may not even know what they need to protect, much less how to properly protect it. If you have questions, an experienced intellectual property attorney can help.

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