One of the most difficult aspects of business for new entrepreneurs is intellectual property. When it comes to managing your copyrights, trademarks and other intellectual property rights, start-ups without a solid understanding of the law should turn to a trademark and intellectual property attorney. Especially in cases where your new business is getting off the ground with little more than your intellectual property and your initial staff, it's essential to protect your rights. Here are some of the most common intellectual property mistakes made by start-ups and tips to help you avoid them.
Failing to Clearly Define Ownership
In most cases, ownership rights of intellectual property fall to the person who created the work. There are some grey areas, though, such as when you hire a contractor to help you develop your intellectual property. In that case, you need to be clear about who owns the rights.
Make sure that your ownership rights are clearly stated in the initial contract and legal paperwork when you commission the services of any contractors or developers to help you. Failure to do this may give your contractor an opportunity to steal the rights to profitable intellectual property simply because he or she helped to develop it.
Not Researching Your Brand Name's Legality
Registering a brand name with your state's small business association and buying a domain name for your website doesn't automatically grant you the rights to use that brand name in commerce. If your business name or brand is too close to one that is already in business, you may find yourself with a cease and desist that requires you to create a whole new brand identity.
To save yourself from this financially costly mistake, talk with an attorney before you register your business name. He or she can help you to search the patent and trademark registrations to make sure that you are not encroaching on anyone else's brand.
Committing Right-Click Infringement
As technology has claimed its place in the center of the business environment, the internet has made images, graphics and information accessible with the click of a mouse.
Unfortunately, just because your browser allows you to right-click and save an image, that doesn't mean that you have the right to use it. If you or your marketing team create materials using anything obtained this way without the express permission of the image owner, you're infringing on the rightful owner's intellectual property rights. This can leave you facing serious legal battles and potentially spending thousands that your new, small business doesn't have.
As you can see, there are a lot of things you need to consider when you're launching your first start-up. With so many complexities to intellectual property law, it's in your best interest to work with an attorney (from Altman & Martin ) who can provide you with real-time support about the current laws and expectations.
The best way to avoid this risk entirely is to hire a developer or graphic designer who can create all of your marketing materials and promotional products for you. When everything you release is an original creation, you won't have to be concerned with the risk of infringement.