Map your copy defense opportunities by their categories
If you are wondering why you should be interested in reading a blog post about categories, let me tell you why:
They will help you identify your opportunities for building a copy-defense. But also how to avoid stepping into others’ rights and dealing with expensive fixes.
Read more on the about PATENTsmarter™ page to get some background on why hiring a patent attorney or IP lawyer is not always enough. (And why I spend time helping you succeed with your business – and keep it well for the long haul.)
Use the categories as your protection guides and identifiers
I appreciate the pressure you may experience following a decision to learn more about intellectual properties (IPRs). Or how to apply them to your project, business, or future dreams.
It’s never easy to take on a new field. On top of that, IPRs do admittedly seem a bit dry.
On the other hand, you probably accept the fact that you need to protect your hard work against copycats and pirates. Or maybe other reasons are more important for you. I wrote in this article about “why IPRs are worthy of your attention,” which lists a few of them. And they go beyond your copy-defense options.
This blog post is about how the categories on this website and blog tune you into how a professional IP manager thinks about your business and product. Of course, without burdening you with tedious legal texts.
Reading this blog post gives you:
- A better understanding of of your opportunities to build your copy-defense. The layers that are worthwhile to protect in your business on its way to success.
- The logic that your advisors usually apply to help you protect your assets against copies, piracy, and other infringements. This helps you to prepare more efficiently before and during your collaboration. Your advisor can focus more time on good quality work instead of educating you.
- A guide on how to use this free blog and use it to your advantage. When you know how the structure is built, you can find the knowledge you need.
I wrote an intro article about why you should love IPRs for what they can do for you – even if they may seem boring to get into at first. You may like it, if you are a bit in doubt whether you want to learn about these things – or not
Find your business assets in the categories
Let me start with “low-hanging fruits” closest to your existing skills because everything you can learn about intellectual property rights (yours or others) should benefit your business.
In other words, I assume you are interested in your business and probably excited about your work. Granted: Probably some days are better than others.
Nevertheless, taking your business interests as a starting point for understanding IPRs is the best springboard to work from. I learn best when I know why I need to learn and how I can use it to benefit my goals.
Using the pattern of categories helps you think things through
I want to make it easy for you to learn with everything I do, including the PATENTsmarter™ blog and its structure. But also the homepage as such.
Maybe you already realized that there are some common themes or words (categories) on the front page compared to the blog menu above. – and maybe you even recognize the pattern I am talking about in this post (Hint: Take a look at boxes on the front page)
So the following two sections in this blog post will teach you:
- The logic “behind” the blog categories and the principle of treasure hunting in your own business.
- Walk through the five treasure hunting categories.
- Using the categories to build your copy-defense (and more)
1. the logic "behind" the blog categories
I use the successful patterns and workflows from my over 14 years (while I am writing this in February 2023) working with IP and integrate them into everything that makes up PATENTsmarter™.
In that way, the blog’s structure, offers, courses, and workshops are adaptable to your reality and support your needs from the first day you start.
Today’s blog post explains some of the structure, so you can use this website to your advantage – even if you never buy any products from the shop.
Treasure hunting by categories
You can make relevant and informed decisions when you know what is valuable to you and your customers and what your competitors wish they had made (instead of you).
The questions you must ask do not require you to be Albert Einstein or a legal expert – I promise. The blog and its categories will remove much of the burden you may feel about “where to start” and what to ask for…
You may even think some of the questions seem simple and superficial. But play along. You will see how they are vital to taking the process from nothing to something and eventually to “something more.
Let's go treasure hunting with the categories as our capturing tool.
Yes, it’s true. It’s all about going for a treasure hunt in your own business.
At least, that is how it feels to me when I take my patent attorney hat on and roll up my sleeves.
I find it more entertaining to look at it that way, it’s much easier to find joy and motivation to do the job and dive into “the wonderful world of… patents, copyrights and more”. When you know that it’s about making the most of the work an innovation that is produced.
The four treasure hunting questions "behind" the categories
Dive into the treasure hunt with me by asking these four questions as often as possible. Every time you collaborate, invent, develop, or create. Like a #mantra!
By asking these questions, you look at your business from different perspectives and can identify what you want is most valuable for you.
Which assets, know-how, and products would your competition wish they had access to? When you know that, you have the power to prevent it from happening!
- WHAT do I want to protect? (Or even better: WHAT do I not want my competitors to know or copy?)
- HOW can I go about it (or what can I protect – with what?)
- MY BUSINESS needs now and in the future, and
- WHAT WORKS for other businesses in the same field?
You can answer these questions by sifting through the categories I present in a split-second.
Depending on the business asking the questions, the categories and subcategories give you the prompts to the following things to consider.
Let’s take a look at the categories. I think it’s time.
2. The Five categories
Products, Assets, Options, Business Type, Hits & Misses
The four-question mantra is a good starting point. But of course, you need to know more to get them answered.
Each category I mentioned above covers a general concept; each has further subcategories, which provide even more specific versions of the first.
What is inside the five categories?
It depends on who asks the questions
What do the categories represent in your product and business protection toolkit?
- First, the WHAT: The things you want to protect, e.g., your PRODUCTS.
- Second, the WHAT you often forget: Other ASSETS in your business are not products but essential for our competitive position.
- Thirdly, if you want to look at HOW you can safeguard what you identified in items 1 and 2: The most common strategies or tools to protect said PRODUCTS and ASSETS, relevant articles are found in the category: OPTIONS.
- Next, you want to understand WHO is protecting what, or in other words: You may ask if certain patterns are particularly relevant for specific BUSINESS TYPES.
- And lastly, understanding WHAT WORKS – and what does not work for others, makes for great learning experiences, which is why examples and case studies are found in the category HITS & MISSES.
As you may have noticed, each category represents a pool of examples, cases, and stories – or tools and strategies that can help you find your answers.
The subcategories give more specific prompts
If you want to use the categories to your advantage, you need to know what to look for – and what is inside. If you do, you can pick the ones you like to start with.
Or, maybe even better: The categories could inspire you to look into aspects of product, asset, or business protection strategies that you did not consider earlier.
So look at the categories and note what sounds exciting or new.
Each category below can be untoggled and reveal several subcategories. Inside you will find an explanation of each subcategory and which content you can expect to find.
The first category concerns the hottest topic when copies are discussed in professional networks or social media.
Our products. Most of us are worried about the damage or loss that we assign to copies of our products.
Not all products are equal, and different products consist of different elements, which provide various options for obtaining rights helpful in preventing or handling infringing actions by others.
This subcategory concerns products or ways to make products that can be touched or used. They all have technical features or comprise ingredients that solve some technical problem or lead to a new or different function or effect. These products could be sold in physical stores or manufacturing methods, maybe even applications of them.
Digital products include software and apps, which may partly be protectable like online products; however, at the same time, they sometimes leap into the options that are available for physical products too.
Why? Because they can be the one thing that drives the effect of a substantial technical part. Or makes its application better. Or because it is combined with a device that is not entirely separated from the software or app.
Note that if you create apps and software-based products, you will see a lot of overlap with the pool of knowledge in the subcategory of the online product. But you will also see more specific articles – with time.
In this category, you will find matters relevant to, e.g., online books or courses, pdf files, videos, and photos. So everything in the social media posts, graphics, and blog posts category could be in this category. This includes almost everything created and made available online via streaming or download, login, or online meetings.
Services & Support
This category may overlap across all other product subcategories.
Service providers, experts, and supporters may be essential for your business. However, you should be careful about what they should help you with, what you share with them, and how to avoid being a victim of an idea or content theft.
On the other hand, if you are a service provider, you need to understand your rights in such a pay-for-service relationship. Of course, you have them too.
So whether you are one or use one, you should know how it affects your business if you don’t control their access to and involvement in your business core.
As mentioned earlier, many business assets are protection worthy. They provide an opportunity to stay ahead in your industry.
However, they are often not directly involved with, or part of, your product.
This main category covers the below-listed subcategories that you may consider to protect your business.
You may think that ideas and inventions are the same. But they are not. Ideas are the stage before a story, a design, a creation, or unique text becomes real things (e.g., on paper, in a prototype, note, or file).
And these can be very valuable but are challenging to keep in your business for money-making if you don’t understand how to protect them efficiently.
Brand protection is relevant for all businesses, regardless of their size or industry.
The smaller the business (in my opinion) – the more important…
Your brand includes everything that makes your identity a fantastic business:
- Designs of your product packaging (physical or digital), your logo,
- Your business or product names, and
- So many other things that make it easy for your customer to recognize you and your products from others in your industry.
If your business turns into or is a success, your brand identity may often be
- copied or imitated by piggybackers misleading your customers.
Why do strategies have their own subcategory?
Brilliant question; all categories and subcategories could be interpreted as strategies too.
Here’s my answer:
In this category, I’ll collect content highlighting patterns and specific ways or best practices – and ways to think about the future, that can be valuable for your business and product protection.
Sometimes, content may be a product. Other times content is more of an asset supporting your product’s ability to make revenue. E.g., marketing or launch of a specific product; sometimes, it is your social media content, and other times your blog or website content.
Content can be many things, and sometimes we forget that someone spends time and possibly money on creating it – so we are tempted to copy, borrow, steal, or otherwise abuse what is available. This is what I will discuss in posts within this subcategory.
In this category, you’ll find content about standard tools (some of which represent IPRs) to protect the PRODUCTS and ASSETS listed above.
Are useful IPRs providing exclusive rights to an invention (physical products, methods, and uses). An invention is more than an idea. It had “come true,” i.e., it has been realized in a permanent format. Inventions always have a technical feature or an ingredient providing an effect or function to the product?
A trademark is another IPR. It provides an exclusive right to commercialize specific words or signs as business characteristics. It often makes out a large and vital part of the brand identity.
This is an IPR not available in all countries.
In countries where it is available, it covers a specific (and narrow) protection around a unique design’s visual, dimensional, or tactile (feel, touch, sensation) features. It may also be named a design patent in some countries. Sometimes, copyrights may be the next best thing to investigate for the protection of a design if specific design protection is unavailable in a country.
A free IPR that protects the author or creator of original work products, such as text, photos, art, videos, and combinations thereof.
A Trade Secret is not an IPR as such, but certainly valuable.
The best protection against imitation is never to reveal what you are doing. Trade Secrets may be a great and free way to keep your products and assets safe. But it requires that no one outside your business or contracts shares them with outsiders at any point in time.
Not IPRs as such, but critical in collaborations.
Contracts are essential to know and understand for any business or professional. Use them to stay in control and before entering alliances, so the question about, e.g., ownership of commonly developed matter or brand-specific uses are dealt with before it starts.
In this category, I am currently separating the content into three subcategories or three business types, if you will.
This subcategory tries to specify everything of particular interest to solo entrepreneurs, freelancers, online entrepreneurs, and small businesses. This means the focus is on smaller budgets, and there is an expectation that the knowledge base is not as developed yet.
Many posts in this category concern non-physical products or assets.
So if you are an entrepreneur making inventions with technical character, you may also want to peek into the startup & SMEs section if you sort by business type. Otherwise, try sorting by product type instead.
Startup & SMEs
You may ask why I categorize startups and SMEs in one category since the business size is markedly different.
I do so because SME decision-makers and employees must also understand everything a startup employee or owner needs to understand about business protection and vice versa.
Startups will need to protect their growth into (hopefully) an SME and, like SMEs, their future success (further development, merger acquisition, etc.).
The great thing about smaller-sized SMEs and startups is that cross-functional communication works well.
However, the downside is that often: There is no funding for an IP and patent specialist. Leading to non-specialists handling critical matters, like IP strategy planning and execution, with external counsels. The risk is that things get lost in translation because neither side understands all consequences fully.
This category is about protecting big businesses, mainly physical products, but also non-physical assets and elements. I will discuss complete value chains and aspects to cover.
Therefore, this category may also be interesting for startups, SMEs, or entrepreneurs. However, the complexity level is often higher than for the smaller endeavors. Corporate businesses employ many different experts and decision-makers.
Due to the separation into functions and silos, many opportunities are missed.
Communication and knowledge barriers can lead to devastating failures from untrained departments’ actions – often relating to others’ rights and businesses.
The reason is that marketing and research teams never meet, or the IP and patent departments cannot be involved in all external communication plans or product detailing.
So, for this type of business, educating critical players, project members, communicators, researchers, and board members is essential to ensuring alertness about consultancy needs.
HITS & MISSS
The last category is about telling stories and sharing what others did well or what teaches us what we should not “try at home.”
Some of you may already know my Patent Horror Stories from Instagram and Facebook, which will now be found here.
These are about what scares your advisor or patent attorney.
We see errors and risky behavior when handling risks regarding others’ rights or when communicating about business-critical opportunities or privileges.
These are about all the great stories where patents, trademarks, copyrights, and friends protected business income or at least provided compensation for the damage that, e.g., a copy or imitation had on the rights owners’ business.
The stories in this space will highlight the effect of specific practices and diligence that help avoid attempts of copies.
Some of the measures in these successful prevention tactics are free, in terms of the money spent, but may need the investment of time and a strategic mindset.
3. Using the categories to build your copy-defense (and more)
Regardless of which business type or model it concerns or which budget sets the limit for my work: I need to map values, assets, products, opportunities, and risks first, then I need to understand them, and then I decide what to do.
I do that in 5-ish steps. And here they come:
#1 Use the categories to list the relevant assets, products and options to protect them with.
→ First, I look at each category and pick the most relevant subcategories.
→ I then evaluate what tools and strategies. I will take a good look at, what I can use to protect the selected, e.g., product category. But also which other assets may be connected to it and worth considering for special handling or IPR protection later.
#2 Prioritize: Start with the most important categories first
→ After weighing all options for protecting every element I identified as profitable to protect I decide which ones are the most critical. The worst to have a copycat to take advantage of.
#3 Think ahead: Do my future goals include additional categories?
→ I will ask the involved product developers, investors, and creators to elaborate on whether we are at a finished product or one that looks different in the future.
In the comments below, let me know if you would like a deep dive into these future perspectives.
#4 Reality check & Decisions: Considering everything again, including the budget
How can I Make it all fit my goals?
→ Early on, I will ensure that I know exactly what is planned when things are shared or published to avoid losing protection options.
→ I will evaluate whether my asset complies with the requirements of the laws that provide the rights that I want. You will likely ask an IP lawyer or patent attorney to help you here.
Stay tuned for introductory patent courses and courses about your intellectual property right options
→ If the budget is limited, I will consider which assets or products are most important to protect. Then I will check the alternatives and consequences if we do not protect them.
I will ask myself (and others involved): How bad would it affect the business if we could not stop the thieves or copycats?
Taking all pros and cons from steps #1 – #4 into account, I will go on and make a plan.
You should probably talk to a patent attorney or IP lawyer and get some advice based on the list you made – if you did not already do so in step #2.
#5 Execute: Finally it's time to take action and execute the plan I made
→ Once the decision is clear I will do what needs to be done.
Usually you would need an IP lawyer or advisor to support you here too.
Today's Take Home Message
Although you may know PATENTsmarter™ and me already, you should have a much better idea about what this blog is all about.
The post you just read has provided insight into how patent or IP professionals think when they need to find protectable matters in your business.
Logic & Structure can be helpful
I hope you can apply the logic that I use in my daily work, which I explained in this post, to grow your ability to protect what is yours.
Maybe you can use it to understand the reasoning and explanations behind your advisor’s doing and questions.
Or even better: You might be able to train your mindset to see opportunities and risks about your rights and those of others and go through the list before you go to your next meeting with the adviser.
You are also very welcome to leave a comment for me, e.g., if you’d like me to dive deeper into a topic.
And finally, I apply the same logic to categorize blog posts, so you can find what you want to read about faster.
(But don’t forget to diverge from what you think is essential. You don’t know if other posts may spark your brain and inspire you to protect your assets even better)