Innovation is Valuable:
Entrepreneurship is a major driving force for the growth of the U.S. economy. Innovative companies, in particular, can generate revenue and create jobs by leveraging the value of their intellectual property. Many companies accomplish this by obtaining patent protection for their new and useful inventions. In fact, the World Intellectual Property Organization reported 2,644,497 active patents in the United States in 2015. As an alternative to patent protection, you can choose to maintain your company's proprietary information as a trade secret. To learn how one pioneering Portland company manages its intellectual property, we chatted with Shawn Small, a mechanical engineer and the owner of Ruckus Composites.
The Power of Patents:
Patents can be an important tool for businesses of all types and sizes—not just tech companies. Patent owners are entitled to a limited monopoly on their patented invention, for up to 20 years, allowing them to exclude others from the unauthorized making, using, selling, offering to sell, and importing infringing products. In simpler terms, you get the exclusive rights to your product and can enforce those rights against knockoffs. In simpler terms, an issued patent can give the patent owner an enormous competitive edge in the marketplace.
Trade Secret vs. Patent Protection:
Another way to protect the information that gives your business a competitive edge is by maintaining that information as a trade secret. Unlike other types of intellectual property, there's no way for you to register a trade secret with your state or federal government. Instead, you must simply take reasonable precautions to keep that information a secret. Then, if another person acquires or “misappropriates” your trade secret by improper means, you can sue for injunctive relief, damages, and even attorney's fees.
How Ruckus Manages its Intellectual Property:
Shawn aptly describes Ruckus Composites “agile and innovative composite facility with extensive materials engineering experience and opportunities." Primarily, Ruckus Composites uses science, cutting edge technology, and their own inventive techniques to repair carbon fiber bicycle frames. Ruckus Composites has applied for patent protection on at least one of its inventions, and keeps its inventive techniques under wraps by having robust internal policies and procedures in place, as well as by requiring signed non-disclosure agreements from its employees, independent contractors, and on-site visitors.
Inventions and proprietary information aside, Ruckus Composites has also secured federal trademark protection for its key branding, including its business name RUCKUS COMPOSITES, and its slogans BETTER SERVICE THROUGH SCIENCE and i REMADE IN THE USA.
How to Protect Your Innovation:
Patents will generally offer the strongest protection for your company's innovative methods, processes, and designs. If you're interested in securing patent protection for your inventions, it's a good idea to get in touch with a registered patent attorney to learn whether your invention meets the minimum standards for patentability. If you're not ready to apply for patent protection just yet, you can always keep your company's proprietary information as a trade secret. If you're not sure which route to choose, you should contact an experienced intellectual property attorney to weigh the pros and cons of patent protection versus trade secret protection, and which one might make the most sense for your business.
Shawn has successfully combined his engineering know-how, his commitment to customer service, and his business-savviness into growing Ruckus Composites into a profitable company. Your company may not specialize in carbon fiber repair (or maybe it does), but you can do the same with the right resources and legal protections. Thanks for chatting with us, Shawn!
You can learn more about their fascinating carbon fiber repair process here.
Res Nova Law is an intellectual property and business law firm based in beautiful Portland, Oregon, and serving innovative companies and entrepreneurs in and beyond the Pacific Northwest. Our friendly and knowledgeable attorneys can advise you on patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets, and how developing and protecting your intellectual property can help your business generate revenue and grow. As experienced litigators, we can also help you resolve intellectual property disputes and avoid potential litigation.