If you are like most online entrepreneurs, you don’t spend much time focusing on your company’s intellectual property. You go about your days building your business, perfecting your product or service, and executing your business plan. You probably have some sense that your business has intangible assets and that those assets have value, but you have not taken the time to create a plan for how to handle intellectual property issues.
If that description fits you, it’s time to wake up because you are ignoring your most valuable assets. It’s time for you to stop being like most online entrepreneurs. You need to be thinking about your intellectual property and taking steps to protect it.
Online entrepreneurship is all about building on an online platform to showcase your “genius” and then leveraging that platform to make money. Given that business model, your entire business is built around creating and protecting your “genius” online.
Your platform IS YOUR BUSINESS. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. If you lost your platform, you would lose your business. Well guess what, your platform is nothing but intellectual property.
Let me drive the point home another way. In today’s world, 80% of the value of a typical company comes from intangible assets (read: intellectual property). But if you are an online entrepreneur, you are not running a typical business. You probably don’ have a brick and mortar facility, you don’t own expensive equipment to make your business run, and you don’t have a ton of inventory.
Nope, you are running a lean ship where you are largely selling your know-how. You don’t spend your days making physical products. No, you spend your day creating virtual assets. You’ve no doubt created lead magnets, blog posts, podcasts episodes, white papers, online courses, and a slew of other “knowledge” products that you offer to the world. All of those assets are intangible assets that are protected (if at all) as intellectual property.
You’ve also probably spent countless hours building “your list” and cultivating relationships with customers and potential customers. Believe it or not, your list and CRM database are valuable intellectual property – but you can lose them if you don’t take the right steps to protect them.
In my own business, I’d estimate that about 90-95% of the value comes from my intellectual property. If you’re beyond the first stages of online entrepreneurship, you’re are likely in the same boat.
With that in mind, how can you possibly justify not having a plan for your intellectual property? No seriously, I am asking. I’ve yet to hear an online entrepreneur who can come up with a good explanation for not making a plan for their intellectual property.
The reality is that most entrepreneurs don’t take steps to protect their intellectual property either because they don’t think about its value, because they don’t understand its strategic value, or because they are worried that they’ll have to spend too much money to hire an attorney to do the work.
Now that you’ve gotten this far through this post, I know you don’t fall into the first category. You understand the value of intellectual property and understand that your entire business is built on your intellectual property.
The second group of entrepreneurs tend to think that intellectual property is an issue that can be dealt with as it arises. They take an “ad hoc” approach, addressing issues from time to time, but they don’t have an overall vision for their IP. This is a mistake. There are so many problems with this approach. To begin, if you don’t take certain key steps early (like getting the right confidentiality procedures in place), you could lose your protection. You can’t just wait until an issue comes up; you have to be proactive.
An “ad hoc” approach also tends to result in entrepreneurs spending their money and resources in the wrong places. Let’s be honest, you have a limited budget and a limited amount of time. You can’t possibly protect everything. Without a strategic vision and a plan, you are likely to spend money haphazardly and you may end up out of resources when it’s time to protect something truly meaningful. A little bit of planning goes a long way.
The third reason entrepreneurs don’t do anything about their intellectual property is probably the most widespread. I get it, hiring a lawyer is expensive and we don’t exactly have a great reputation as a group. I’m not here to tell you that you have to hire an attorney to put together a plan for your intellectual property. You certainly can hire an attorney if you want to, but there are all kinds of free resources out there for you to get the information to do it yourself.
You can get some really great free resources here on my website. Among other things, you could:
Whether here or somewhere else, you can get tons of free information that will let you get started. If you can’t afford to hire an attorney, get the information and do it yourself. It may not be perfect, but it will be better than if you don’t do anything.
Bobby Klinck is an intellectual property attorney, but he’s not your typical lawyer. Sure, he went to Harvard Law School and worked at some of the most prestigious firms in the country, but if you look at the big whiteboard in his office, you won’t see much about the law. His whiteboard is filled with tasks related to platform building, inbound marketing, and sales-funnels. Bobby is a full-fledged online entrepreneur, whose area of expertise is the law.