Intellectual Property is the umbrella for brand names, logos, advertisements, songs, photos, software and inventions. Those innovations are valuable business assets. Here are a few tips to protect them.
1. Trademarks – The names, logos, slogans and hashtags that identify products and services are trademarks. iPhone, “Think Different” and the Apple logo are all examples.
HOLMES@LAW Tip: Conduct a clearance search BEFORE adopting a trademark. It’s much cheaper than defending a lawsuit, paying damages and rebranding your products and services after an infringement occurs.
2. Domain Names – Owning a trademark doesn’t automatically afford rights in a related domain name. For example, Delta Airlines and Delta Faucets can’t both own the www.Delta.com domain name. When choosing a mark, run a domain name search at the same time to help coordinate your marketing strategy.
HOLMES@LAW Tip: If the “dot com” domain name relating to your trademark isn’t available, try the website ww.NameMesh.com. It generates dozens of different options by adding “inc” or “llc” at the end of a company name, including a hyphen between words, or getting creative with .biz, .info and other top level domain choices.
3. Copyrights – That song beat you just can’t seem to shake is protected as a copyright. So are books, movies, photographs, paintings and even software code. Copyrights afford legal protection for creative works.
HOLMES@LAW Tip: Even after paying for a creative work like a logo, photograph, product label, or a website design, you still don’t own that copyright. Although it may be counterintuitive, it’s necessary to enter a Copyright Assignment or Work for Hire agreement to legally transfer a copyright from the “creator” to you.
4. Trade Secrets – Customer lists, sales strategies, growth projections and even formulae are trade secrets. In other words, the confidential information that provides your business with a competitive advantage is a trade secret.
HOLMES@LAW Tip: Protect trade secrets through non-disclosure agreements BEFORE sharing confidential information. Also, include non-compete and non-solicitation terms in employment contracts to help reinforce your rights.
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This article is jointly published in the May 2016 issue of the Gwinnett Citizen newspaper.
JoAnn Holmes ("Jo") is the founder of HOLMES@LAW, LLC. She serves as Outside General Counsel to select, intimate management teams for midsize companies. Likewise, Jo provides strategic support for lean law departments.
Jo founded HOLMES@LAW to provide agile, result-driven legal solutions. Beyond risk management, we help identify opportunities. The firm's focus areas are business law and strategy, commercial contracts and global intellectual property management. We build long-term relationships as trusted collaborators, and our flexibility consistently yields great value for clients.
HOLMES@LAW is also committed to service work, including through supporting local schools and leadership groups, as well as domestic and international charities. Since its founding, the firm has dedicated more than 200 hours to community service.
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