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Intellectual_PropertyUnderstanding Intellectual Property And The Online Marketplace

Digital marketing is built around sharing our content. It’s the intellectual property on our website such as page copy, blog posts, photographs and images that define our company message.  It’s important to understand as businesses, how to protect intellectual property, and how much sharing is too much. Are you giving away intellectual property that could be worth more than your services or physical goods?  It’s one thing to publish blog posts giving readers helpful tips that will improve their lives. It’s another thing to tip them off to trade secrets and bubbling ideas that can lead to major profits.

Perfecting Your Social Sharing Policy

Make sure that your employees have a firm grasp on what is and what is not acceptable to post online.  Let’s say for a second that you own a bakery. It’s one thing to pin scrumptious looking photos of your cupcakes to a Pinterest board. Or maybe you’ve got some mouth-watering descriptions of your baked goods that help sales every time they appear on the bakery’s Facebook page. That’s perfect.  You can play up their deliciousness without giving away what’s in them. Think about all the effort that’s gone into recreating the Twinkie or the Oreo. It’s because everybody loves them, but nobody is 100 percent sure what the recipe actually is.

It’s easy to become carried away with your social media presence, and be sucked into the culture of sharing. Don’t give away your trade secrets, though. They’re part of your true identity as a company, and there’s a reason they’re labeled as secret.  Those best selling cupcakes are what allow you to outsell the competition. Everybody who eats one of these cupcakes wants to know what is in them. But the second that you start telling people, your marketplace advantage could be at risk, and the mystery you’ve worked so hard to create is gone.  Guarding that special recipe intensifies that mystery, and keeps your customers returning through the doors. That’s the kind of trade secret provides an immense amount of value for your company. It’s an idea that loses value once it’s out in the open.

Consider the rampant success of Coca-Cola. They’ve kept their soft drink recipe secret for 117 years. If we could replicate their hard work in the kitchen, we wouldn’t need to buy it.  Let’s say the head baker at your bakery has an epiphany. They just figured out an amazing way to improve the taste, and reduce the calories in these famous cupcakes.  No matter where you’re at in the production process, that idea is intellectual property as well. It needs to be protected.

Understand What You Have

Make sure that you’re aware of these trade secrets that differentiate your product from the competition. Once you’ve identified them, make sure that they’re not shared in the online marketplace.  You’ll need to educate your employees. They need to understand that during the course of their workday, they will come across this proprietary information that benefits the company, and that they’re not allowed to share.  You can take the added measure of labeling any documents with this information as confidential. That way there’s no ambiguity down the road.  Make sure that everyone within the company understands the role that these secrets and ideas play in their success.

Matthew Brennan is a marketing writer based in the Chicago area. He regularly writes about content marketing, blogging, and engaging with your audience. He has been published on ProBlogger, Soshable, and Business2Community and writes for sites like Hays Firm LLC. Connect with Matthew on his website,, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+.