Category Archives: Intellectual Property

Calling All Inventors: You may qualify for pro bono patent assistance.

What does “pro bono” mean? It’s fancy, law school lingo for “free.” 🙂

Have you invented the next best thing or process? Do you have an idea that could be monetized into valuable intellectual property?

Protecting your intellectual property is an important part of your business strategy.

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Ask SCORE: How can I protect my intellectual property when working with strategic partners?

One way to grow your business is by reaching out to strategic partners who offer complementary products or services or who otherwise can work with you to the mutual advantage of both your businesses. Strategic partnerships can expand your market reach and help you achieve more sales. But giving another business intimate knowledge about your company’s inner workings may make you a bit uneasy. There’s some inherent risk involved in sharing confidential information and intellectual property (IP).

According to Marc Goldberg, a SCORE mentor with business startup and management expertise, “It is very easy to steal your ideas or even your unique approach to customer fulfillment. Very quickly you could generate a competitor by sharing information with the wrong people.”

For that reason, you need to take measures to protect your ideas, information, and innovations from theft.  Continue reading

Ask SCORE: Do I need to copyright my website to protect it?

Your business’s website can be one of the most powerful marketing tools you’ll ever have at your disposal. Unfortunately, the better it is, the better the chances it will catch the eye of unscrupulous competitors. They might have no qualms about hijacking your written content, images or other elements and presenting them as their own.

How can you prevent people from stealing content and images from your website? Copyright!

Copyright protects the rights of creators of original works—such as literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works (for example, play scripts, movies, poetry, books, songs, photography and even computer software). It protects the way things are expressed/presented in works (e.g., the images, arrangements of words or music, etc.); it does not, according to the U.S. Copyright Office, protect “facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation.” When you create (draw, write, photograph, etc.) something original, copyright law automatically gives you ownership of the work. At the moment you create a work, copyright exists.

This is also the case with digital content, including websites.  Continue reading

The who, what, when and why of non-disclosure agreements.

businessman signing contractYou put a lot of time, energy and effort into your business. With so much invested, doesn’t it make sense to protect what you worked so hard to build?

Various ways exist to do that, such as choosing the right legal structure for your business, installing security software on your computer, getting business insurance, etc.

And don’t forget having an NDA!  Continue reading

Spark of Genius: Walk Tall and Innovate

We recently came across this article about Dan Horkey, a Kitsap SCORE client, written by Alex Camarota of the US Patent and Trademark Office, Office of Innovation Development. Turns out there are a lot of good articles to read and plenty to learn at the USPTO website.

Innovation changes lives every day.

It makes many of our daily tasks easier, more efficient, or more affordable. But sometimes it does more. Sometimes an invention has the power to not only change lives, but to give people back a life.

Dan Horkey’s life changed drastically and suddenly in 1985 at the age of 21. A motorcycle accident had left him with an amputated left leg below the knee. After a lengthy recovery, he received a prosthetic leg and began the arduous task of learning to walk and function with it. It was the mental challenges, however, that proved most difficult to surmount.


“I sought to cover up my disability,” said Dan. “I didn’t want others to know, and I wanted to avoid a lot of the questions I would get—like, how did you lose your leg?—when I was transitioning from crutches to a prosthetic.”

Dan lost more than his leg in the accident. While doctors, physical therapists, and rehabilitation therapists could help him adjust to the various physical challenges, they had little to offer that might help him accept this new, foreign part of his body or regain his self-esteem. His response was to conceal it with a fake skin cosmetic cover.  Continue reading

Ask SCORE: How can I protect my ideas?

Got a great idea? Follow these first steps from SCORE Counselor, Alan Tratner of Santa Barbara, CA.

1. Put all your ideas, notes and drawings in an inventor’s journal, and have it signed, witnessed and dated. Be careful about disclosing your ideas to anyone—use a confidentiality or non-disclosure document when discussing your ideas.

2. Decide whether to file a provisional patent application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. For more  information on the benefits and how to file, visit the USPTO Web site at

3. Conduct a Preliminary Patentability Search to discover what patents exist like your ideas — and get a patent attorney to render you a Patentability Opinion. There are many ways to conduct the search, including the Patent Depository Libraries on the Web site. File a PTO Provisional Patent Application for one year if all looks good.  Continue reading

Protect your secrets with a non-disclosure agreement (NDA).

Businesses are founded on ideas. And considering the competitive nature of entrepreneurs — and the business world in general — ideas can be more valuable than money. For this reason, you might want to think about a non-disclosure agreement or NDA. This legal form helps keep your business’s private information under wraps so that you’re the only one who capitalizes on your inspiration.

A non-disclosure agreement is basically a contract. Its main purpose is to establish a confidential relationship with a subcontractor, new employee, business partner or anyone who’s getting a behind-the-scenes look at the great ideas that aim to put you ahead of the competition. In these situations, you’re really letting people into your confidence, and luckily a non-disclosure agreement can legally safeguard your valuable information.

For example, are you launching your business with a new product, like a drink with an incredible new formula? Or does your product have a special design that really stands out? Are you putting together an innovative workflow process or manufacturing system that’s never been done before? All of these things, sometimes called trade secrets, can be listed in writing as information that needs to stay in-house. But the non-disclosure agreement can cover anything you designate — like personal information about your employees, partners or anyone else involved with the startup.  Continue reading