Intellectual Property: Vitally Important to Protect it Early!
When it comes to intellectual property (IP), most entrepreneurs are familiar with things like copyrights which they often confuse for trademark protections. There are three main areas of intellectual property that can help you to protect your business: (1) Copywright, (2) Patent, and (3) Trademark. These three categories are simply ways businesses can legally protect certain types of IP that they've created.. Most business owners are oblivious that their IP makes up about 80% of their overall business. Business owners are also likely in the dark about what these three forms of IP mean and thus, are failing to take extra precautions on protecting their business IP rights. Given this, it’s something you definitely want to understand, value, and protect properly. Putting off securing your IP can lead to some major difficulties if you do not keep this at the forefront when planning early on. Start at the Beginning. Entrepreneurs need to think about IP from the very beginning - initial business planning phases. Even in the planning phase, you need to stay conscious of any IP you create. For example, entrepreneurs often wait too long to legally secure one of the most key pieces of IP—their business name. When considering a name,you should first check to see if any other business is using a similar name and if the name has already been secured. You can do this using the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) electronic search system. If the name isn’t taken, you don’t have to register it right away, but you should add the ™ symbol each time you use the name in business. By using the "TM" symbol, you establish “common law” rights to the name based solely on your use of the trademark, even without registration. Once you think the business has a chance of succeeding, you’ll surely want to officially register the name with the USPTO and start using the ® symbol alongside of it instead of the ™ .
When you officially register the name, a number of advantages come along with it such as ability to sue for monetary damages against other companies for trademark infringement. However, if you use a name that’s already trademarked, the potential financial penalties of an infringement suit are only a small portion of the damage that can result. Aside from the cost of re-branding and changing everything, it’s also likely your business’s reputation will be damaged which can be hard to recover from.
Loose lips sink ships
Through excitement, many business owners tend to tell people about potential IP ideas too early without proper agreements in place. This is common in the IT world, among others. You want to ensure that when you have a new and innovative new idea, that you take the time to file a patent or design, or trademark application to ensure that your IP is protected. Although excitement is usually the reason business owners inadvertently leak their IP, it happens. When you discuss with friends and other companies you’re collaborating with to unveiling your innovation at trade shows, you should be ever vigilant about giving away too much information about your concept until you've successfully secured IP protection.
We can help
You can secure IP rights on your own, but having a lawyer like us assist you is often best. This is true not only because the process can be complex, but also in order to save you time and energy for more things that matter. As your Innovative Business Lawyer, we offer a wide array of business legal services and can help you make the wisest business choices throughout life and in the event of your death. We also offer a Business Protection Start-Up Session or a Business Planning Audit for an ongoing business, which includes a review of all the legal, financial, and tax systems you need for your business. Call us today to schedule.