Virtually everything that gives your business a competitive edge is protected by the law.
Your supplier list is a trade secret. Your company/brand names are trademarks. You can (and you should) patent your new and unique business/product ideas to prevent copycats. For many start-up companies, intellectual properties are all they have.
Trademark and Patent
It wouldn’t be fair if others can misappropriate the fruits of your hard work. For instance, when you keep your business know-hows confidential and they give you a competitive edge, they are protected by the trade secret law.
Of course, there are steps you can take to protect your valuable IPs more securely. You often see “®” mark next to many trade and brand names. The “R” stands for “registered trademark“. Although registration is purely optional, it has become a standard practice for good reasons.
What about “patent pending”? It means there’s a current patent application. By filing a patent application, you disclose your invention to the public in exchange for a legally sanctioned monopoly for a limited time. In other words, people will learn everything about your invention, but for about twenty years or so, nobody other than you can use that invention.
The worst thing you can do is to do nothing.
For example, unless you register your business name, your right to the name is limited to your current market. (That doesn’t sound good for start-ups, right?) Also, there’s nothing legally wrong about your competitors reverse-engineering what you’re selling in the market. Once they figure it out, you can’t stop them from copying it.