No matter what type of joint venture you're interested in forming, intellectual property will probably be a factor to consider in your contract. It can be defined as creations of the mind that deserve protection under the law and may include musical and literary works as well as inventions and designs.
Whether you are bringing intellectual property to the table when you form your joint venture, or plan to produce it in the course of your partnership, it's important to understand how to protect your rights as well as the rights of your JV partner.
Methods of Protecting Intellectual Property
There are a variety of ways to protect it, depending on the specific type of property you are concerned about. Some of the methods include:
Patents - Different patents are used to protect inventions for up to 20 years, depending on the type of invention and what you specifically want to protect.
Copyrights - These are used to protect literary works, as well as any other type of authored work, including music and tangible works of art, and typically protect the work during the life of the author and for 50 years afterwards.
Trademarks - This protection applies directly to your corporate branding, including symbols, words and names that you use to distinguish your products and services.
Trade Secrets - while not an "official" protection, some companies to keep information under wraps can keep trade secrets for decades.
The type of protection you choose will be directly related to the work that you want to guard. Each of these methods directly applies to a specific invention, creation or marketing concept.
Considerations in Your Joint Venture
When you're forming a JV partnership, intellectual property should be a part of the negotiation process. Some of the questions to ask as you are drawing up your contract include:
What intellectual property could be compromised through your JV partnership?
Will it be transferred to your JV through licensing or physical transfer?
What protection does your property already possess?
Will there be intellectual property produced through the JV?
If so, how will it be protected?
What confidential information will you need to protect?
What will happen if the joint venture dissolves?
If you are concerned about protecting intellectual property in your JV, you can begin by talking to an attorney who specializes in these types of contracts. However, you may also need to meet with a patent or trademark specialist, who will be able to advise you on the right way to protect your creative property before you ever even sign on the bottom line. Once you form your partnership, you may need to schedule a second appointment to discover how to protect your joint property as well.
The most important factor in protecting intellectual property through a joint venture is to do so before you formally create your partnership. This ensures your joint venture and your intellectual property will both continue to be profitable for you.