LEGAL BRANDING & 3 POPULAR MISTAKES BUSINESS OWNERS MAKE

Most small business owners and entrepreneurs know that they have created a brand and start using this brand in the stream of commerce. They also contact a branding referral to do the artwork for their logo, website, tagline, etc.

However, small business owners and entrepreneurs fail to understand that when ideas or products are are developed from creative thought and process, it creates intellectual property (IP). Depending on what has been created, to gain full protection of the law, that IP has to be protected by (1) copyright, (2) trademark, or (3) patent.

Copyright and Trademarks are the most popular and most business owners present with a basic understanding of both. To recap: Copyright protects written works like books, screenplays, graphic arts, short stories, music lyrics etc. Trademarks protects names, book titles (only if a series), taglines, logo art, etc.

Even though entrepreneurs and business owners may present with some idea about these different types of IP protection, they still tend to make three popular mistakes regarding protection of their IP.

1. FAIL TO DO PROPER RESEARCH ON THE NAME.

Recently, I had a discussion with a fellow colleague about the priority given to entrepreneurs and small business owner's legal team. During our discussion, we determined that these two groups are less likely to invest in their legal

team, but will invest in graphic arts and creation of their logos without putting enough work in place to protect the IP that they've created.

One major mistake is failure to do proper research on the name that you have submitted in the stream of commerce. I get it. It's exciting. You've thought of this amazing idea. You have this super creative name and there's no way someone else could have thought of it. Then you decide to start creating products with this name. You create a website. You create business cards and flyers. You create banners for trade shows and the list goes on.

You may think that just because the name is available in your state and your local secretary of state allowed you to register it, it's fine. You will not have any legal troubles. You're wrong.

I've seen it happen over and over again - a naive entrepreneur doing business by a locally registered name that is taken by a filed and active (national) trademark registration. Then they are hit with a cease and desist or even sued in federal court for an insurmountable cost for infringement damages.

The IP in your business is more valuable than the artwork that you've paid someone to do for $500 or more. It costs you more in the long-run to do business without counsel. Invest the dollars upfront to do a sensible check on the name and branding that you will create as the basis of your business and avoid the up-cost in potential litigation.

2. FAIL TO LEGALLY BRAND THEIR IP.

The second most popular mistake entrepreneurs and small business owners make is not filing registrations to protect their IP. So, what if you've hired counsel to research the name for you, a logo, or tagline but decide to pay for registration at a later time?

Yes - the name may be available, but putting off the registration can cause someone else to use the business name, file an application for registration and block the business owner from using it. Moral of the story: get it done as soon as possible.

3. FAIL TO PROTECT THEIR FILED IP.

The third most popular mistake entrepreneurs and small business owners make is not protecting their IP registrations once they are filed and approved. Why? Because there's no legal team to manpower this task and watch out for infringements.

Let's face it, entrepreneurs and small business owners are likely wearing multiple hats to keep their business afloat. Many do not believe that legal is one more thing they can afford to do (not even on a temporary or quarterly basis). Therefore, when that registration to protect the IP is filed and accepted, that business owner simply believe that they've done enough.

Wrong. Not only do business owners need to police their marks to ensure that others are not using it, but business owners also need to be ready to issue cease and desist letters if they are. If business owners fail to properly police to protect their IP and allow others in the marketplace to use it, the IP will become weakened which may impact that business owner's chance at winning on an infringement claim.

Business owners also need to be aware of registration deadlines. When that deadline for the mark occurs it has to be renewed. If it is not renewed, someone has the chance of scooping up the name or mark and demanding that the business owner cease use of the previously registered IP.

Don't be like other entrepreneurs and small business owners by putting legal off for another day, another quarter or another year. Get protected. Don't think you can afford it? You can't afford to keep putting it off.

But, don't worry, SLD is here for you. Call us today to schedule a meeting to talk about our new roll-out to assist small business owners and entrepreneurs with sensible fees that you can manage to help you grow and sustain your business by also avoiding legal issues.

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This article is a service of SL DeBarros Law Firm, LLC. 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 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.

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