In my experience as an intellectual property attorney, I’ve found that the majority of business owners and entrepreneurs end up creating legal plans and only include the security and maintenance of their intellectual property rights as an afterthought, as a fluke or accident, or not at all.
The “accidents” that force a business owner to consider intellectual property vary, but they are ones that most of us, as business owners ourselves, can relate to:
~ An entrepreneur begins doing business under their desired company name without running a search to see if the name was already in use, or if it was too confusingly similar to other business names in the marketplace. The business owner then gets served with an infringement lawsuit, which grinds everyday business operations to a halt.
~ A business owner designs a website with images found online, without being fully sure about the legal rights to the graphics or the licensing information. The business owner then receives a letter from the photographer demanding $800 for every picture used because he or she did not have a proper license.
~ An inventor is contemplating patent protection for an invention. In knowing the process could be expensive, the inventor approaches a company in hopes the company may like the idea enough to partner on the patent. In disclosing the ideas without proper agreements or protections in place, the company goes behind the inventor’s back to secure the patent without him.
~ A business owner hires a web developer or graphic designer to design the business website. The agreement does not include proper protections to the business stating that all content created on behalf of the owner is completed on a work-for-hire basis. When the business decides to use another graphic designer or web developer and they make changes to the website the original company claims infringement of their intellectual property.
I say without hesitation or exception, that if business owners and entrepreneurs sit down with an intellectual property attorney at the inception of their operation or venture (even while the venture is in its startup or “incubation stage”) many painful legal consequences related to intellectual property rights will be avoided.
Likewise, a solid legal foundation would be laid from the start that could help support future growth, rather than the business foundation cracking and crumbling with each new product launch, employee hire, or greater exposure of the brand in a global marketplace.
But, we get busy. We get excited. We think we’ll be OK and that we can deal with any legal problems if and when they arise. Many issues in the legal world can be worked out that way, but when it comes to dealing with intellectual property problems, that is not usually the case and the best approach is usually a proactive one.
If you’ve been working hard to grow a business that has brand awareness, that is bringing in revenue, and then suddenly you are told that you can no longer operate under the name that your customers know you by because you are infringing on someone else’s rights, it can have lasting and irreparable effects.
When someone else steals your content and publishes your work in their name, you’ll be scrambling afterward to learn about your intellectual property rights so that you can recover what’s rightfully yours in court.
As with most things in life, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This is especially true regarding your intellectual property. It is an asset of your company and needs to be protected and planned for, just as any other physical property, product, or tangible asset would be protected.
Fortunately, it’s never too late to do the right thing. If you’ve been operating a business without giving serious thought to your intellectual property rights and how to protect the assets that possibly you didn’t even realize you had, we invite you to call the Law Office of Jason H. Rosenblum, PLLC at (888) 666-0062 to schedule a consultation.
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.
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