If you are a small business owner, you probably have a lot to worry about, from developing your concepts, to marketing your products, to managing your employees, to growing your company. Thinking about protecting your intellectual property might not be a high priority for you, especially early on, but your intangible and innovative ideas are valuable, and protecting them is an important step in building your business that should not be overlooked.
While small businesses most commonly acquire trademarks and copyrights, there are many other ways to protect your IP, even if you did not invent the products yourself. For example, if you have come up with a clever and unique way of displaying, packaging, or selling your products, a patent could help secure rights to your design or process. Although obtaining a patent can be considerably more expensive than acquiring other forms of IP protection, as with everything else in your business, strategic up-front investments can provide significant long-term benefits, and a diverse approach to IP is often better than one that focuses only on a few types of protection.
For a quick introduction to intellectual property, take a look at this short video by MSNBC's Your Business. You may also visit the small business section of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's website.