In addition to the usual considerations of starting up a business, such as incorporation forms like S-corp, LLC, etc., a business owner also has to consider his or her key intellectual property and ownership. When starting a business, a good lawyer discusses with the business owner the following.
Trademarks are an important way of protecting intellectual property. Businesses often overlook the need for securing a trademark, a mistake that can be costly. Whether the business is a new start-up or an ongoing enterprise, it is important to avoid making a mistake. In the increasingly competitive world of business, intellectual property has become more valuable and simultaneously easier to lose. Common mistakes made by new and expanding businesses include failing to adequately protect intellectual property, running into a conflict by not thoroughly researching existing trademarks, and choosing names that are too descriptive or that are not unique. Instead of simply running with a name that you like or that sounds good, you need to look into who else might be using that name or something too similar to that name. Or it may not qualify for trademark protection because the name is too descriptive and generic—“soft pile carpet installation”—or not unique—”car wash”—and thus not be eligible for protection. It may be money well spent to consult with an intellectual property attorney prior to making an important business decision.
If you write or create a piece of work, it automatically is eligible for copyright protection. However, simply adding the copyright symbol to that work does not provide complete intellectual property protection. It is important to additionally register the copyright to ensure full protection against infringement. Registration can also be cost-effective because it confers statutory damages and attorney fees if you need to take the matter to court.
Another copyright consideration is to take care not to engage in infringement yourself. A common mistake is to use an online image without securing permission. Business owners should familiarize themselves with the requirements of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
Any time that a business has a new product idea, it needs to first seek protection of that idea with a patent before disclosing that idea to anyone. While it may be beneficial to “bounce an idea” off others, unless the business has secured its idea with a patent, the business is at risk of someone else grabbing that idea with a patent of their own. Timing is absolutely critical in filing for patent protection. Also, given the global nature of production and trade, business owners should learn about and consider filing for a global patent under the Patent Cooperation Treaty.
Trade Secrets may fall into the gray area of not being eligible for patent protection. In those instances, it is up to the business to make sure the secrets are kept. It is up to the business to take steps and enact measures to ensure confidentiality.
Trade Dress is another source of intellectual property. While Trade Dress may or may not be eligible for patent protection, the business should determine whether it does qualify and, if not, take additional steps to hide and conceal the appearance of a new product.
Does your newly formed business have the right to use the likeness of models and people appearing in advertising? Just because they are employees does not mean you are legally safe. Publicity rights protect an individual and his identity from commercial exploitation. Knowing the law and being prepared for the use of an individual’s likeness is critical before starting the production of marketing materials.
Simply put, your documents are only as good as the input. We here at Van Den Heuvel Law are experienced business attorneys who can give you more than just a document. We advise on how a business should be set up and how to avoid issues such as using material that you don’t have the proper rights to or when it is time to consult a patent attorney. Sure, AI programs online can generate documents, but they cannot advise nor point out commonly litigated pitfalls in the business plan(s). That truly takes an experienced lawyer, such as those here at Van Den Heuvel Law Office. Contact our experienced legal team in Grand Rapids at 616-698-0000 or here.
To talk with our attorney about your legal concerns, contact the Van Den Heuvel Law Office by calling 616-698-0000. You may also complete our online contact form. After-hours consultations are available by appointment. We are also available on Skype by appointment.