The brand of your business is hugely important, and everything associated with it must be protected from others using it without your permission. Whether you are a small business or an artist, everything you create has the potential to be part of your intellectual property. There are ways you can try to protect your work and your branding so that there are things you can do if they are used unlawfully.
Many companies use non-disclosure agreements because it creates a way for them to work with other companies or individuals. If you need to do some work, but you don't want certain details of the project to be made public, then you can draw up a non-disclosure agreement. It will detail all the things that must not be shared with anyone except the person you're working with on the project. It also stipulates that they must not disclose any information about the project to anyone other than you.
If you have any original text, audio or visual work, then you can register it in case anyone else uses it without permission. Anything that you create has a copyright from the moment you put it into a tangible form, though you need to register it if you intend to sue anyone who is using it. Although copyright protects against words, images, and sounds, it doesn't cover the process or the idea. For example, if you made a video on a computer game, that video would be covered by copyright. However, it wouldn't prevent someone else making a different video on the same game.
If you have a logo or a brand name, then you need to think about deciding if its eligible to be registered as a trademark. For example, if you have decided to make a logo for your company, then you can register that as a trademark. If you are a local company, then you may only need a state-wide trademark, though you can apply for a federal trademark if you are selling countrywide. You will need to check first that no-one else has created another logo that is the same or similar.
Patents are for those who have invented an item or process that is distinct and significant developments. You can apply for a provisional patent if you are having problems getting people to sign non-disclosure agreements. A provisional patent will protect your invention until you can apply for a full patent. It gives you 12-months for you to evaluate your invention and decide if it is viable enough to patent fully.
Dealing with your intellectual property can be a long process, and you need to be vigilant to make sure no-one uses your property without permission. Although your file for the trademark or copyright is accepted, it will not be enforced unless you notice the breach and seek legal proceedings against the user. By protecting your intellectual property, you are ensuring that no-one will profit from your work unless you have agreed for them to do so.