Facebook is being sued by a Dutch programmer for the use of the iconic 'like' button.
The now trademark Facebook feature was allegedly patented by Dutch programmer Joannes Jozef Everardus van Der Meer in 1998, five years before the launch of the social network.
The patent relates to the functionality of Van Der Meer’s Surfbook, a social diary that allowed users to "like" each other's content, in much the same way that Facebook uses the button.
While Van Der Meer has passed away, patent holder Rembrandt Social Media is suing Facebook for using the patents without permission.
It’s a timely reminder of the importance of protecting your intellectual property, but also doing your research before claiming something as your own.
An area often overlooked by small business builders.
This is just one example of the massive value carried by a business’s intellectual property and the importance of ring fencing brands, trades secrets and great business ideas before they make it big.
So how do you do it?
Stop Talking About It
First of all stop telling everyone your great business idea before it’s protected because there’s very little to stop them running off and replicating it later that day.
But remember there’s also a chance you’re running around with someone else’s idea yourself, so jump onto IP Australia and do a quick search to see if you’ve been beaten to it.
If it really is a new idea you’ve got, wire your mouth shut and set about getting your IP registered.
There are seven types of IP protection available - patents, trademarks, plant breeders rights, registered designs, copyright, circuit layout rights and confidentiality or trade secrets. Sometimes more than one is necessary to fully protect your idea.
IP Australia has a great portal to help choose the right IP protection for you, so be sure to check it out here.
But don’t dust your hands after a visit to IP Australia. Once you’ve registered your property there are additional steps you should take to ensure it remains safe and sound.
Demonstrate The Idea
Even once registered it’s still important to document when and where the idea first sprouted and the features that make it unique. This strengthens your case should anyone challenge the originality of it.
Draw pictures, take photos, write it all out in minute detail and then date it, sign it, get it witnessed and file it away. Some people even post it to themselves and leave the letter sealed to really dispel any dating doubts.
Use Confidentiality Agreements
Whenever discussing the idea with anyone be sure to get a confidentiality agreement or non-disclosure agreement signed with them. This effectively swears them to secrecy.
These are standard business documents so don’t be shy pulling one out before you talk with anyone. And make sure it’s signed, dated and ideally witnessed in your presence.
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