Every business has intellectual property that has the potential to become extremely valuable, but if you don’t protect it from the very beginning, you could face big problems down the road. Not only could you end up in legal trouble, but you could also lose opportunities to expand your brand into new verticals, industries, and locations!
Unfortunately, I see it happen all the time. Entrepreneurs and business owners neglect investing the time and money into putting the right safeguards in place to effectively protect their intellectual property. Instead, they focus on short-term gains. After all, if they’re not making money, they can’t keep their doors open!
It’s not surprising that things like intellectual property protection, which doesn’t bring in new revenue immediately, is dropped to the bottom of the priority list, but trust me, this is a big mistake that is more than likely to come back and cause big problems later.
Here are five intellectual property mistakes that entrepreneurs often make which you should avoid at all costs because the long-term damage could cost you your entire business!
1. Picking the Wrong Name for Your Business
Don’t settle on a business name until you’re certain that you can use it now and in the future. In other words, you need to do a comprehensive trademark search to ensure the business name you want to use doesn’t conflict with any existing trademarks.
You also need to make sure the name can scale with your business, so think long-term. How might your business grow in the future? Pick a name that won’t conflict with other trademarks today or in the future. In other words, pick a name that will stand the test of time.
2. Using a Domain Name without Making Sure It Doesn’t Conflict with Existing Trademarks
Just because you can register a domain name doesn’t mean that you can use it to promote or sell your products and services. If someone else owns the trademark rights to the name used in your domain name, and your use of the name could cause confusion in consumers’ minds as to what company is actually selling the products and services you’re offering, then you could be accused of trademark infringement.
If you are, in fact, infringing on someone else’s trademark by using their registered mark in your domain name, then all of the money and time you’ve invested into building awareness of that domain and traffic to your website will be thrown out the window (unless you can strike up some kind of co-existence or licensing agreement with the trademark owner).
3. Getting a Cheap Logo
Yes, you can get a cheap logo through a website like Fiverr or LogoGarden, but don’t do it! Even if you pay for the illustrations or images used in the logo, if you don’t own the copyright to them, you can’t trademark them and actually protect them.
Furthermore, you need to have whomever designs your logo for you (if they’re not an employee of your company) sign a work-made-for-hire agreement giving you copyright ownership of the design or you can’t trademark it.
4. Neglecting to Copyright Your Original Works
It’s not expensive to copyright your ebooks, designs, photographs, software code, and so on, so don’t skip it! Without a registered copyright, you can’t get full protection for your original works. For example, you can’t collect fines or damages in a lawsuit without a registered copyright.
Make sure you get help from an intellectual property attorney to complete your copyright applications. They need to be extremely specific to ensure you get the protection you want and need. This is not something you want to do using a do-it-yourself website!
5. Assuming All of Your Ideas Need Patents to be Protected
Patents provide huge competitive advantages to businesses, but once you file for a patent, your idea will be made publicly available in as few as 18 months. Anyone can learn about it. If you develop an invention that can be held as a secret, then you should consider protecting it as a trade secret rather than filing for a patent.
This is an area where you need to work with business experts and an intellectual property attorney to determine which protection is right for you and your company—a patent or a trade secret protection program.