Guest post written by Stacy J Grossman, lawyer, businesswoman, and REach Mentor. Stacy was formerly Vice President and Associate General Counsel at News Corporation, providing counsel to the New York Post, HarperCollins, Amplify Education, News America Marketing, The Daily, Sky Italia and other businesses.
On the intellectual property side, there are many issues for growing businesses to keep in mind. Here are five big ones:
Your company may have applied to register a trademark in its early days– largely to ensure the exclusive right to use a chosen name. Now that you’re up and running, it’s time to reconsider trademark issues.
Are you properly using your trademarks? Be sure to use your trademark as a brand name – don’t turn it into a noun or a verb. For example, the sentence “I’m wearing my Nikes today” is not good for Nike – the company doesn’t want the brand Nike to become a synonym for sneakers. Better trademark practice would be “I’m wearing my NIKE sneakers today.”
A growing company may develop copyrightable content, and may need to use third party content. In order to develop its own IP assets and to minimize the risk of a copyright infringement claim, good copyright hygiene is required.
3. Patents, Trade Secrets and Confidentiality
Does your company develop inventions? If so, it is worthwhile to speak with a patent attorney to determine whether or not those inventions are patentable. Similarly, does your company own any trade secrets, or is it under a duty to keep any information confidential? If so, you must ensure that proper systems are in place to protect confidential information.
5. Third Party Claims
Never ignore an infringement claim from a third party. Whether it is a letter from a patent troll, a takedown notice sent to a website, a communication from a photo agency about infringement of a photograph, or a cease and desist letter from a trademark owner, such communications require immediate attention. Dealing with these matters in a timely manner often allows for inexpensive and amicable resolutions. Ignoring a claim can be a costly mistake.
Now that your business is growing, you likely have more intellectual property assets that you should protect and enforce. Trademarks, copyrights, patents and trade secrets can be a source of licensing revenue, and are certainly valuable company assets. At the same time, your company is a deep pocket, and may be the recipient of IP related claims – whether valid or not. It is important to deal with such claims in a timely fashion to prevent them from escalating. Investors are always pleased to see that companies have strong IP portfolios, and good IP hygiene.