Will You Go Out With Me?

Unsurprisingly, I find myself often being asked to describe what “intellectual property” is.  I, all too often, find myself giving a description that is not all that helpful.  If you are asking what “intellectual property” is, then saying “intangible business assets” isn’t going to get us much closer to understanding.  One way that I have heard it described is a company’s “special sauce.” But that can sound kind of creepy. “Hey, baby, what’s your special sauce?” Yeah, no.  Let’s see if we can explain it a different way.

I start with the premise that every business is special.  It is unique.  There is at least one reason why customers pick one business over another.  And there are definitely things that help customers know they are actually buying the product they want and from the company they want to purchase from.  Those things that help customers decide who and what to buy are the company’s intellectual property!  So let’s try a perhaps still creepy, but at least differently creepy, analogy. If your company were a person, intellectual property is the stuff that your friends – who are trying to set you up on a blind date – would let the other person know to convince them to go out with you.  This “Stuff” is how the other person would then know you were you when they showed up at the coffee shop.  Or I guess that I may be showing my age. It’s the stuff you put on your dating profile.  What is on your company’s dating profile and how do you make sure your customers show up to your date and not someone else’s?  That’s your intellectual property.

Breaking that down, you definitely want to know the name.  That’s often a trademark.  Often, some distinguishing physical characteristics are helpful.  That can be a logo or maybe the shape of the bottle.  That last one is called trade dress.  You definitely want to know what makes them awesome.  That could be anything that makes you so darned attractive.  We then get to discuss copyright for creative expressions of ideas or trade secrets. These are the things that you do that gives you an edge because no one else knows the process or the ingredients.

So think about what would be on your company’s dating profile for potential customers?  And how do your current friends make sure that others know how to be sure they are getting the “real” you?  Then we work with you to protect that.

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