As a business grows and expands, its most valuable intellectual property may not live in any of the detailed technical features but instead in the brand that users associate with the assistance: the company’s trademarks.
The best technology is invisible. Whether it’s your favored social network, online streaming, or ride-hailing—they work. People choose these services not based on the specific technological solutions that underlie them but on their broad experience.
That user experience doesn’t just happen. It contains the code the programmer writes, the developer’s system, and the designer’s interface. If the business is missing any of these parts, it cannot deliver a great experience.
The company must have clear ownership of all the technology that creates the experience—because it is the experience that makes the brand. As your clients begin to identify with that branded experience, you also need clear brand ownership to protect your place in the market.
Related: Legal for evolving IT companies
When the programmer, the developer, and the architect come together to build the service that will support the client experience, their first step is not to select a programming language or buy hardware. The first step is to form a company and decide who possesses it.
For the company to own technology that moves the experience, the company must own all the intellectual property for all the technology. The founders must agree to the terms they are trading intellectual property for a stake in the new company. The longer the founders wait, the bigger the risk that some part of the technology will be unavailable to the company.
As the company grows and expands, its most valuable intellectual property may not reside in any of the specific technical features but rather in the brand that users associate with the service: the company’s trademarks.
Services like Netflix and Facebook have a staggeringly complicated technology that does simple things, like curating a user’s news feed or formatting a movie to fit any screen. It is a credit to the underlying technology that so many of these solutions are nearly invisible.
As the company grows, the individual technical elements become more minor and less critical. Instead, they contribute to users’ positive feelings toward the brand. This brand preference gives Facebook and Netflix an incentive to improve their services continuously. And that’s what trademark protection is all about.
Individuals love the brand that provides the service. So long as the service continues to work—and as user knowledge improves—customers may not appreciate the efficient network architecture or the zero-second-latency protocol. Nor should they need to.
Intelligent companies will protect that brand, along with the individual technical components.
How do you protect a brand?
Through trademarks. Trademarks are distinguishable from other forms of intellectual property in that they cover the goodwill that companies foster with their clients.
Also, unlike most forms of intellectual property, so long as the trademark owner renews the trademark, the protection continues. With an easy filing every ten years, the trademark can exist eternal. No one else can use the same brand for the same service.
Companies that take trademark security seriously are funding a lot more than just protecting their logo. They support everything from the internal technological components to the outward-facing general persona and brand. Because the total is more significant than the sum of its parts, you want to be sure to protect it.
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