A new paper from North Carolina State University’s Dr. Stephen Schanz offers a “how-to” guide on intellectual property protection, laying out the options for budding entrepreneurs as they consider how to move forward.  The question at any stage of building out one’s idea is how should a person protect those ideas?  Schanz is offering a “how-to” guide on intellectual property protection, laying out the options for budding entrepreneurs as they consider how to move forward.  All of your commercial ideas, whether in energy and fuel or not, deserve your consideration as intellectual property.

It’s a problem that needs considered early on.  Shanz says, “Entrepreneurs often come up with ideas that can be protected, and this article lays out the pros and cons of various intellectual-property protections.  Furthermore, the paper urges entrepreneurs to weigh the time, cost and effort involved in pursuing various intellectual-property protections.”  That may be the most sage advice possible – know your options.

Schanz outlines three protections in the paper: patents, trade secrets and copyrights. Patents apply to inventions and devices. Utility patents provide legal protection of the idea for 20 years, dating from when the patent application is filed. However, when the 20 years are up, the information becomes part of the public domain. Trade secrets also apply to inventions or devices, but are protected internally, meaning that there is very little in the way of public protection. The benefit is that the idea never enters the public domain, so it can remain secret in perpetuity – a good example of a trade secret is the formula for Coca-Cola. However, if anyone else figures it out, they can legally market it themselves.

The third and of interest to this author is copyrights. Copyrights protect unique expressions, such as writing, music, art, film or design. Even elements can be a significant component of marketable products, such as the sounds and images associated with popular video games. Some people use this site’s contents for their site with an abundance of advertising to obtain an income without doing the work.  Others are students who think that copy and paste from this blog and other blogs I assume, is a fast way to a great grade.  I do appreciate the nice complementary email from teachers and professors.  So you know . . .

Schanz says, “Determining which protections best suit your needs is not a ‘one size fits all’ scenario. The options you may want to consider will vary over time. For example, entrepreneurs in a young start-up company with limited capital and resources may want to go the trade secret route until they ascertain how it fits in their business plan. But, if they have determined that the idea is valuable, they should also take steps to ensure that – eventually – it can be patented.” Schanz explains that if an entrepreneur discusses the idea with outside parties who have not signed non-disclosure agreements, the idea may no longer be patentable – it will have entered public domain.  Fair warning . . . Get a non-disclosure agreement before you show your work.

“If, over time, the start-up company has more resources available – and the concept is commercially viable – it may want to pursue a patent,” Schanz says. “The important thing is for the entrepreneur to weigh the risks and benefits of various options and make an informed decision. This paper should help entrepreneurs do that.”

The paper titled “Entrepreneurial Options for Protecting Intellectual Property,” was published in the September issue of the Entrepreneurial Business Law Journal, and can be downloaded in a pdf file. So get yours, save it to your drive and review it each few months.  If nothing else, it will save you a lot of money using your own lawyer as you’ll be much further up to speed than not having Schanz’ help in mind.

Maybe all this could backfire on a blog about energy and fuel.  But post writing and staying out in front of what’s happening, and may come in the future, depends on ideas having some capital value, which is what copyrights and patents offer.  So give the good professors paper a reading – if your idea works out, you and all of us will be glad you did.  We all will owe some thanks to Professor Schanz, the paper is after all a peer reviewed overview that everyone can use.


1 Comment so far

  1. Commercial Attorney on December 4, 2013 1:38 PM

    Got a good idea? Get a good IP lawyer. That is my advice as an attorney heavily involved in commercial litigation.

Name (required)

Email (required)


Speak your mind