Is Your Business Making These Intellectual Property Mistakes?
You are a small business, Your business has nothing to do with intellectual property (IP) at least, not directly. So you may not give a lot of thought about how to protect your intellectual property, or mistakes you might be making with your IP.
Businesses often make mistakes with IP, which can end up costing them a lot of money. Your business may have brochures, logos, designs, ideas, processes, marketing slogans, or inventions, all of which merit IP protection. You don’t have to be an IP expert, but it’s important to be aware of some basic mistakes that many small businesses make, when developing, and protecting their IP.
One common problem is that many businesses will use other people—contractors or employees–to come up with ideas, slogans or designs for them.
When the employee does that, who owns the IP? The Work for Hire doctrine can help you keep the IP for yourself, but it is always better to have an actual contract specifying that whatever the contractor or employee develops, belongs to you or your company.
By the way, don’t forget that photography is a form of IP as well. So if an employee is taking pictures for you, and you intend to use those pictures anywhere on your website or marketing materials, or packaging, you need to protect that IP, and claim it as your own.
Many people come up with logos, designs, or slogans that are very common. If your slogan is “we like humans,” that is likely way too broad and general to ever get IP protection. If your logo is a straight red line, it may be too general for protection. Think of things that are distinguishable, otherwise, they may be too generic for you to protect.
Suing and Enforcing
Suing isn’t the first thing on your mind when someone takes, uses, or misappropriates your IP. And you don’t have to sue—you can just send a cease and desist letter. But whatever you do, don’t allow someone to steal your IP, without taking some action.
If your IP is stolen, it could get into the general public, and become so generic and widely known, that you lose protection over it (think of the word “Kleenex” which now is used for any tissue paper).
To Register or Not?
Registering your IP gives you a number of legal rights that you wouldn’t otherwise have. It announces your ownership of your IP, and allows you attorney’s fees and statutory damages in some cases, if there is an infringement.
On the other hand, by registering, you are disclosing your invention, product, or device to the general public. You may lose the right to claim something is a trade secret, if you register it. Whether it’s better to register, or keep something secret, is a discussion you should have with a business law attorney.
Do you need business or intellectual property advice? Call the West Palm Beach business litigation lawyers at Pike & Lustig to help you.