with Your Intellectual Property Attorney
One of the most common things I see in my law practice is people waiting too long to get legal advice. Whether the delay is caused by a perception that they cannot afford the advice of an attorney or by a belief that they do not need professional guidance, the result is the same. People and businesses ultimately spend more money and lose valuable intellectual property rights because their legal needs are neglected for too long. If any of the following apply to you, it may be time to talk to a professional to make sure you are not forfeiting rights you believe you own.
1. What If a Competitor Used Your Name?
Your clients identify you by your brand name. What would happen if another business started using your name? Would your clients be confused and purchase services from your competitor? Most companies are aware of the need to build a strong brand and promote the image of the brand. However, sometimes not enough thought is given to selection of the brand name. In other instances, companies know that others are using their name, but take no action to stop that use. Either one of these mistakes can lead to a situation in which a business can no longer protect its name.
A strong brand name is one that is easily defensible from others attempting to imitate your brand. Trademark searches and registration can protect and enhance the strength of your brand, providing you with a huge advantage in the event your trademark is ever infringed. And timely, effective enforcement of your brand can ensure that you maintain the exclusive rights to use the name.
2. You Want to Sell Something You Invented
In the U.S., the only way to prevent other people from making or selling an item that you invented is to secure a patent issued by the U.S. patent office. After an invention has been publically disclosed, you have only 12 months to file an application for U.S. patent protection. Any disclosure of your invention prior to filing a patent application prevents you from later obtaining patent protection in most other countries. The good news is that you can take steps to prevent public disclosure and maintain the protectability of your invention. Even if you are only in the early stages of inventing, make some time to consult with a patent attorney to ensure that you will be able to apply for a valid patent when the invention is complete.
3. Your Business Generates Income Based on its Trade Secrets
If your business has a collection of information that it does not want competitors to access, you may be interested in establishing trade secret protection. Any information that is not readily available and that provides value to your business may be protected as a trade secret. The trick is setting up the protections to ensure that your secret stays a secret and to enable you to recover your losses in the event the secret is ever stolen. A business attorney may be able to help you put these safeguards in place and prevent the loss of your secrets.
4. Shared Management or Ownership of your Company
Working with other people can be invigorating and rewarding. But when the relationship falters, the whole business can be affected. All too often, businesses do not have their internal agreements and operating policies formalized before a conflict arises between the owners. At that time, it can be difficult to resolve disagreements. Well thought out corporate documents drafted when the relationship between parties is productive and healthy can guide the company through heated disagreements or, in the worst case, help the parties decide how to distribute the assets of the company if they can no longer work together.
Nobody likes spending money on a lawyer, but a small investment in legal services before problems arise can save you big money in the long-run. Think about scheduling a preventative consultation with an attorney to discuss any potential issues your business may be facing. Some legal planning now may prevent headaches in the future.
Kelly G. Swartz is an attorney with Ingenuity Law, a Melbourne, Fla. law firm focusing on patent, trademark, copyright, and trade secret law. Contact her at Kelly@IngenuityLaw.com