Sunday, September 18, 2005

Intellectual property.
Do you know Nolo Press?

Intellectual property can be a very productive way to build value into your enterprise. Even the smallest of start ups and emerging enterprises can take advantage of trademarks and patents.

This has nothing to do with those idiotic rip-off advertisements for help getting a patent. Do NOT do that. Repeat. Do NOT do that. Rather, I'm talking about using your own time and effort to use publicly available resources to build and grow the assets of your enterprise while helping protect its future.

As your organization grows in complexity, you will need to lawyer up. However as a start up or an emerging enterprise, you can create your own intellectual property. I've done it, and I have trouble programming my cell phone.

What's my secret? Some inside track on invention and innovation? Nope. My secret is Nolo Press. I really wish Nolo wasn't so secret, so this post is my little pitch for what they do. Nolo publishes books about applying for trademarks and patents that are clear and easily accessible. The content is presented simply and in logical order. Many small but critical action steps, including timetables, are fully covered with brevity, accuracy and grace.

While writing our first patent using the Nolo book, everyone told me that I might have a shot at the patent language, but that I should never attempt to do the patent drawings myself. No matter what, most insisted, I needed to hire out the drawings to a professional.

Of course, I checked the Nolo book on patent drawings out of the library. It was so good I bought a copy. Then I did the drawings, based only on what was in the Nolo book.

I buttoned up the entire package and mailed it to the US Patent and Trademark Office, following the excellent directions provided by David Pressman, author of the Nolo book Patent It Yourself. I put the Nolo books on the shelf and went back to work. About 18 months later (the PTO is faster now) I got the news. All our claims had been accepted on the first application (not typical) and all of the drawings had been accepted with no changes required.

Since then, as the organization has grown, we've lawyered up this end of our biz. Our wonderful patent attorney Jaen guided us through some really interesting issues and helped us receive five more patents. The idea is to do what's appropriate at each stage of your project.

You don’t need patents. You probably do need trademarks. You absolutely need to be familiar with the subject. I believe it’s very important for start ups and emerging enterprises to have a working understanding of the legal rights and obligations attached to the work they create.

The point of this post is that, in the emerging stages of your enterprise, you can get a lot of intellectual property basics in place by yourself, inexpensively and accurately with Nolo's help.

I've never met anyone from Nolo, but they strike me as a damn helpful bunch. You owe it to yourself to look into their work.

Nolo Press. Patent, Copyright and Trademark: An Intellectual Property Desk Reference

Nolo Press. Patent It Yourself 11th Edition

Nolo Press. Trademark: Legal Care for Your Business & Product Name

Nolo Press home page

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