The start of a New Year is an excellent time to organize and audit your business affairs, while taking steps to ensure that you have a proper legal foundation in place to support new levels of ROI and growth.
One key area to focus on heading into 2019 should be your intellectual property. If it’s been a while since you’ve taken an audit of your “IP” or if you’ve never taken the time to secure your intellectual property rights at all, here are some things to consider heading into the New Year:
- Have you formally applied to register your trademarks for your business name, logo, or tagline? Even if you have common law protection from using your mark in commerce before anyone else, you won’t be able to sue for infringement if someone steals your mark and yours is not federally registered. Protect yourself and your brand by formally applying for your trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
- Search to see if anyone is currently infringing on YOUR rights. You can start with basic Google, Bing, Yahoo, Amazon, and any other industry specific searches to look for instances where your work or your marks (trademarks, copyrights) are being used by someone else. An experienced IP attorney can also help you conduct more detailed searches across the web and throughout legal databases to find potential violations.
- Have you federally registered material you wish to copyright? Your work receives copyright protection the moment it’s created; however, in order to sue for copyright infringement in a US court, your work must be formally registered with the USPTO. More importantly a registration is required to receive statutory damages ($750 and $30,000 per work) and your attorney’s fees, both of which are useful leverage when sending a cease and desist letter to an infringer.
- Take a fresh look at your agreements. Do you have solid contracts in place that you can use when hiring new employees or contractors to retain ownership of the work being created on your behalf, or to keep your information safe when sharing details about your IP with a third party? If not, make 2019 the year that you develop iron-clad agreements that you can use to protect yourself and your business throughout the year.
- Protect your IP rights abroad. If you conduct business outside of the US, you’ll need to apply for IP protection in each nation where you do business. While it may not be feasible to apply for trademarks, patents, or copyrights in every single country across the globe, an experienced IP attorney can help you determine the most important places to secure your rights so that you are protected from infringement abroad.
- Identify your competitive advantage. Take stock of any new technology, procedures or practices in your company that if kept secret, can give you a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Then, take steps to protect these trade secrets.
- Look for new opportunities with your patents. Can you offer a license to create new sources of revenue? Can you find ways to improve upon your patented design or invention so that you are in a position to receive a second-generation patent when your first one ultimately expires?
If after reading through this brief checklist you’ve identified areas where your IP rights or business may not be protected, or you’ve discovered holes in your planning that may be negatively impacting your ROI or future business opportunities, take the time to meet with an Intellectual Property attorney to discuss how to put the proper safeguards in place. If you’d like help getting started, we invite you to contact our Intellectual Property attorneys at 888-666-0062 to schedule a complimentary consultation with the mention of this blog.
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.