Archive for the ‘Biz Tips’ Category
Five FREE Intellectual Property Protections Every Business Owner Should Implement Monday, June 25th, 2012
If you ever plan to sell your company, want to get investors, or plan to leave a legacy, protecting you intellectual property is key to that success. There are five fundamental forms of intellectual property that can be protected under the law and can even be transferred (read that as “sold”). So, when you think about the value of your business, think in terms of:
- Content (website, pamphlets, art, books, music, videos, etc.)
- Brand (trademark, company name, product name, slogan, etc.)
- Technology (know-how, processes, inventions, etc.)
- Secrets (lists, financial information, data that has value if kept secret, etc.)
- Relationships (deals, partners, alliances, suppliers, vendors, lead sources, etc.)
To really nail down protection in any of these areas, you need an IP lawyer – plain and simple. But, you don’t always need to nail down protection all the way; sometimes you just need a “covering,” especially in the beginning. So, here are five ways to strengthen the value of your business with FREE intellectual property protection:
1. Strengthen Content Protection with a Copyright Notice.
- Use the correct format: ©[space]First Year of Publication[space]Owner
- © 2010 Webb IP Law Group
- (c) 2006 – 2012 Webb IP Law Group
- Copr. 2004, 2007 Webb IP Law Group
- Use the © mark even if you have not applied for federal registration of your copyright.
Warning: If you pay someone to create Content for you, they often own it. Make sure that your agreements are clear about Content ownership. If possible and appropriate, make sure that the written agreement states that you own it.
2. Strengthen Brand Protection with a Trademark Notice
- Use the correct format–The trademark notice is a “TM” next to the brand, usually to the bottom right or top right of the brand.
- Example: Webb IP Law Group TM
- Use your trademark (provided you are not infringing someone else’s brand) on marketing, advertising, and sales to establish stronger rights to your trademark.
Warning: Do not use the ® symbol unless you actually have a federal registration or you risk getting in trouble. Also, until you actually use your brand in commerce or have an application filed with the US government, anybody can steal it. So, if you have an excellent name, keep it under wraps.
3. Strengthen Technology Protection with an “inventor’s notebook” and simple confidentiality agreements.
The lowest level of technology protection is not automatic and involves two main processes.
- Keep an “inventor’s notebook” as a special record of your inventions. Use a blank lab notebook (or google “inventor’s notebook”) that is:
- Permanently bound (NOT loose-leaf)
- The place where you write down all of your ideas
- Date all writings
- Have each page witnessed by two witnesses
Keeping a notebook like this can be used later as evidence of your creation and can be proof against someone who might steal your idea from you.
- Keep inventions secret until they are protected
- Have simple confidentiality agreements with anybody you discuss the idea with who is not an attorney.
- Limit access to invention details to people who agree to keep it confidential.
For some inventions, keeping it secret indefinitely is the right choice. For others, your initial protection helps you get ready for patents.
Warning: Do not use “Patent Pending” on your product/service unless you actually have a patent pending with the US Patent Office that covers your product/service or you risk being sued.
4. Strengthen Secret Protection by Keeping the Secret
- Mark secret documents as CONFIDENTIAL—use a watermark, a footer, a header, or even just in the text.
- End email footer with a notice of confidentiality. For example:
“This email and any attachments contain information from Webb IP Law
Group, which may be confidential and/or privileged. The information is
intended to be for the use of the individual or entity named on this
email. If you are not the intended recipient, be aware that any
disclosure, copying, distribution or use of the contents of this email
is prohibited. If you receive this email in error, please notify us by
reply email immediately so that we can arrange for the retrieval of the
original documents at no cost to you.”
- Encrypt or password protect important computer data (customer lists, financial data, credit card numbers, etc.)
- Follow any legal secrecy/confidentiality requirements that apply to your industry or to the kinds of secrets you are expected to keep (HIPAA, FTC requirements, etc.)
- Establish policies of “need to know” for critical information – in other words only people who “need to know” should be given access to that information.
Warning: If you cannot prove (in writing) that you took appropriate efforts to keep something a secret, then courts will generally treat you like you didn’t. Be sure to document your efforts to keep things a secret.
5. Strengthen Relationship Protection by Documenting Expectations
a. Have clear expectations
- Spend extra time now to avoid problems later
- Deal with topics you’d rather avoid
- Repeat what you hear to make sure you heard it right
- Put those expectations in writing
- Send a casual email summary
- Or send a Formal Memorandum of Understanding
Getting it in writing is a great way to preserve that understanding so that six months later you can go back and remember what you were thinking and expecting.
Warning: If someone sends you a summary of an “understanding” and it is incorrect and you don’t reply, that summary might someday be treated as if it was the full truth on the subject. Don’t let an opportunity to clarify slip by, it might bite you later.
These five techniques are used by major corporations around the world and are proven to provide at least baseline protection. They are processes that should be a part of your regular way of doing business because they provide an infinite return on investment. Be aware of the intellectual property that you create as you go about your business and set up whatever you need to manage its protection.
Warning: “Baseline protection” means that it is the least amount of protection that is better than nothing at all. Certainly, that level of protection is not always appropriate. Be shrewd about what you protect and how you protect it. That said, if you don’t at least do the free protection, don’t be surprised if other people treat your property like a doormat.
Jason Webb, Registered Patent Attorney at Webb IP Law Group [www.webbiplaw.com, www.facebook.com/webbiplaw]
Why Successful People Have Time Wednesday, June 8th, 2011
How many times have you said or heard someone say “I don’t have time…”. It’s typically used to describe why you or they could not get something done or why we aren’t handling certain things. Successful people don’t seem to use this phrase as often. Successful people have time.
Time is one if the greatest excuses of all time.
Yet time is really never the real issue for why people don’t do things. Time is usually an innocent by-standard, sort of like my two year old daughter who gets blamed for everything that gets broken or drawn on in our house. She’s just an easy mark and half the time she really is guilty.
You ever hear the phrase “if you want something done, give it to a busy person”. Why is that? Busy people know how to manage their time. Busy people know how to juggle several irons in the fire.
Successful people are busy. They are making things happen. They are making sure that they are working on the right things.
If you have ever been to a time management seminar, many of them talk about personal values to start. Why talk about values? So that you can get clear on what’s most important.
When’s the last time you really sat down and articulated what’s most important to you? Not in your mind but on paper?
When you have that clarity, you can then start filtering how you use your time. We all know that time is finite. I think it was Jim Rone who said that you can always make more money but you can’t get more time. Time is a finite currency.
If you want to be successful in business, you need to manage your time properly and take responsibility for what is going on in your business life.
“I don’t have time” lacks personal responsibility on several levels. It’s not us who didn’t get the job done, it was time. If you find yourself having this “lack of time” conversation with yourself on an ongoing basis, you don’t have a time problem. You have an accountability issue or you are worrying about things that aren’t important. Either way it’s time to regroup.
How have you been able to address the “I don’t have time” excuse?
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BizTip: 4 Components of a Brand Friday, April 1st, 2011
Check out this recently released business tip from the Business Blueprint: