Beyond the products or services you offer, your company has intellectual property that needs to be rigorously protected. Too often, business owners and entrepreneurs neglect to put the proper safeguards in place, which can lead to big legal expenses down the road.
Here are 6 costly IP mistakes you need to avoid to protect your brand:
1. Choosing the wrong name. Whether it’s the name of a company or a product, you need to do some research before settling on a name and spending money marketing it. First, run a simple search on Google. Then go deeper by searching the U.S. Patent and Trademark office website.
2. Not being specific. Using a simple descriptive name will likely not do you any good in having it be associated with your company and will be almost impossible to trademark. When it comes to trademark law, there are levels of distinction that apply, and not every name is approved for trademark. Have your IP attorney conduct a search for obvious conflicts.
3. Assuming that since you own the domain, you also own the name. Just because there is a dot.com available does not mean that the name is available for use. Before you invest a lot in a website, make sure there are no other companies that have trademarked the name or you could likely be on the receiving end of a cease and desist letter.
4. Getting a logo on the cheap. Hiring a friend of a friend to design your logo with no written agreement in place on copyright ownership is a mistake many startups make. Even if you are just spending a couple hundred dollars for a logo design, have a written agreement with the designer that assigns the copyright on the design to you.
5. Assuming every idea needs a patent. When you file for a patent, your idea is exposed to the public. If your invention has a short shelf life, will be difficult to reverse-engineer or can be maintained as a secret, you may want to treat it as a trade secret instead. Your IP attorney can provide you with the proper guidance to help you make the right decision.
6. Neglecting copyrights. Copyrights are inexpensive and easy to file and can provide additional IP protection, but are often overlooked. Copyrights need to be highly specific, but can be used to protect designs, drawings and even computer code.