Protecting Your Ideas
The intellectual property transfer market is now estimated to be worth over $100 billion. If you have a new idea, a patent or an invention, you may be able to license it or sell it for millions of dollars. Many Fortune 500 companies are now making their intellectual property available for sale or licensing at new online intellectual-property exchanges. These companies are trying to maximize their return on research and development investment and generate a new source of revenue by licensing their unused and underutilized inventions to others.
A number of online forums, including Minnesota-based NewIdeaTrade.com (), California-based Pl-x.com (), and Connecticut-based PatentTriage.com () now link buyers and sellers of intellectual property. The traditional transfer of intellectual property is complicated, costly, and can take up to one year. However, these online forums simplify and speed up the process for transfer of new ideas.
The Internet currently reaches more than 560 million users around the world. This makes innovators' potential for exposure much higher than with traditional forms of media. The worldwide online commerce has reached $2.2 trillion in 2002 and is expected to reach $6.8 trillion by 2004. The innovators today can leverage the massive reach of the Internet and promote their new ideas to the global market without substantial marketing costs.
Official copyright registration and patent rights can be obtained from appropriate authorities. A directory of Patent and Copyright Offices around the world is available at . When a potential buyer contacts the seller for more information about the intellectual property, the seller should require the buyer to sign a non-disclosure agreement before revealing the details.
As a business owner, you already know how important it is for your customers to feel safe about doing business with you. After all, if a customer even suspects he may not receive everything he was promised, then chances are he's taking his business elsewhere. So to prevent that you offer guarantees, secure payment methods, prompt customer service, and more. You do whatever it takes to show each customer that you are sincere and trustworthy.
But what steps do you take to protect yourself and your livelihood?
Too many business owners spend all their time worrying about their customers' security without thinking of their own, even though small companies must often deal with customer fraud, non-paying clients, and more.
Just as you've taken steps to ensure that your customers are satisfied with their buying experience, so should you feel comfortable and secure by taking a few precautions of your own.
Get Everything in Writing
Written contracts are not just for helping customers understand what they can expect to receive for their money, they are about laying down the ground rules for your business relationship. When these guidelines are in writing, nothing is left up for a debate or becomes a misunderstanding.
Both parties can be assured that their interests are being protected and both should have a clear understanding of their rights and responsibilities in the event that something goes awry.
A good example would be if you sold a toy which a parent returned six months later because it was broken. Without a contract in writing specifying the time limits and conditions of your return policy, you might end up with an ongoing battle wit the customer which could result in lost business and even lawsuits.
Written contracts also don't need to be crafted by lawyers. You can write everything out yourself in ordinary, easy to understand language. When you and the customer sign it, it becomes a legal and binding agreement. It's really that simple.
Don't Be Naive
So many people in business get burned by their customers simply because they are too trusting. For example, some of you may have shipped products before the customers' payments cleared. Or you may have completed agreed upon work without asking for a deposit. Both are risky propositions as many new entrepreneurs discover the hard way, especially if they do business online.
You can protect yourself by always asking for a partial payment in advance and by always waiting until a customer's payment has cleared before you ship their products. Another method of protecting yourself and your customer is by using a service such as Paypal.com to handle your transactions. The service protects you from non-paying customers and offers your customers protection for lost, damaged, or unshipped products.
Know Your Local Laws
One of the best ways to protect you is by becoming informed. When you know your legal rights, you'll have a better understanding of how to effectively deal with troublesome customers.
For example, some states don't allow you to limit a customer's right to return a product beyond a certain time limit, so you may not legally be able to enforce a guarantee of only one week. On the other hand, if you know your rights, then you'll also understand what steps to take in case legal action on your part is necessary.
For instance, you may want to send a certified letter demanding payment before you file a lawsuit. Additionally, if you appear knowledgeable about your rights, many customers might think twice before failing to pay or committing fraud.
The bottom line is that you deserve to be protected just as much as your customers. A few advance precautions now can ensure that you'll have a long and satisfying business relationship with your customers.
About the Author: Matt Bacak became "#1 Best Selling Author" in just a few short hours. Recent Entrepreneur Magazine?s e-Biz radio show host is turning Authors, Speakers, and Experts into Overnight Success Stories.
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