In working with small businesses we consistently see mistakes that the owners of these businesses could easily avoid if only they were made aware. Here are 5 Intellectual Property mistakes to know and avoid:
1. Picking the Wrong Brand Name. When you start your business and choose a name, more thought should go into this than just picking a name that you like or think may be catchy or appropriate. Before anything, do a bit of research to see if there are others using your desired name or a similar name. At minimum, do a Google® search and a search of the US Patent & Trademark Office. Depending upon your intended use it may be advisable to conduct a more comprehensive search.
Next, determine whether the name is descriptive of your goods or services; if you plan to trademark the name (which is recommended), a descriptive name will be a weaker trademark and therefore, entitled to less protection. Additionally, when a name is descriptive, there is a good chance others will use or have used it.
2. Not Obtaining a Work For Hire. Ensure that you own the copyright in the content that others develop for or with you. Just because you pay someone to produce something on your behalf or for your use, it does NOT mean that you own the rights to the work they create. Always have your contractors sign a work for hire agreement before they create any content for you. This applies to inventions as well; a patent application must be assigned to you. The fact that you paid an inventor does NOT mean that you own rights to the invention.
3. Failing to Timely File for Patent Protection. Do not inadvertently or unknowingly lose your patent rights. An invention will NOT be applicable for a patent if before you file your patent application if: (1) the invention is patented in another country or described in a printed publication available anywhere in the world; (2) the invention is made available for public use in the United States; or (3) the invention is available for purchase in the United States. Unlike the US, most foreign countries do not have a 12 month grace period for (2) & (3), so if you do intend to patent an invention in another country, be aware that a bar to obtaining a patent is triggered as soon as an invention is used, disclosed, or sold in any country.
Bottom line is, do not disclose, publicly use, or sell your invention without first filing for patent protection. 35 U.S.C. § 102(b)
4. Believing in the Myth of the Poor Man’s Patent, Copyright, or Trademark. There is a perpetuated myth that if you mail yourself a draft of your book, a sketch, or a write up of your invention, idea, logo, etc. that you obtain copyright or patent protection. This is NOT true. In order to legally protect a copyright, trademark, or patent it must be federally registered.
Note: If you retain a copy of the stamped, unopened envelope in which you sent any of the above items, it may be used as evidence if a case were brought, but it does not provide any outright protection.
5. Using Materials Found Online. Just because a photograph or picture is found on the internet does NOT mean it is free for others to use. Your use of photos and videos on your site can be a liability if you do not properly obtain them. Make sure you have the proper license if you choose to use another’s content on your site, in your advertisements, on any other material that you publish. All content, found online or otherwise, is owned by someone.
If you have questions about the intellectual property that you and your business creates contact the Law Office of Jason H. Rosenblum, PLLC today to discuss the details first.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice or a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney.