Tag Archives: legal counsel

Owning A Business – Part Eight

If you’ve been reading the first seven installments in this series, you probably realize owning a business is more complicated than most people believe. Yes, you can just hang a sign and get started, but becoming as successful as  you dream you can be takes more than that.

One bit of advice we offer clients is to build key relationships. Yes, you need capable, qualified people around you within your organizational structure. They are the backbone of your corporate culture. You also need professional people as counselors outside of your company.

Your banker or financial institution comprises one piece of that advisory board. That person needs to know what’s going on within the business so they can be supportive during lean times and offer suggestions to enhance your margins. For that to happen, you need to communicate with them on a consistent basis.

Same goes for your Certified Public Accountant (CPA). This individual may not need to meet with you on a monthly basis, but he or she is available to provide guidance on cash flow and other aspects of your financial statements.

A third piece of your advisory panel is your legal counsel. Attorneys are there to minimize your risk and protect your assets. Have yours review legal documents such as contracts, non-disclosure agreements, and yes, even your advertising to prevent any legal liability. It’s better to pay legal fees up front than to lose your company over a technicality.

Your insurance agents are part of your team as well. Meet with them whenever something changes in your business, such as acquisition of a new piece of equipment. Make sure you have adequate coverage for eventualities, and trust that person to scale back on premiums when they can (as President Reagan often said; Trust But Verify!).

We would be remiss to not include your marketing and business consultant. Engaging the right people saves you money, and helps you make money in the process. Ask for recommendations and interview the candidates for your comfort level instead of taking the first one you meet.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand

Protecting Your Brand

Classify this as a “Did You Know?” blog entry.

If you are concerned about protecting the proprietary material related to your business, talk to your legal counsel about the steps you can, and should take.  Your attorney may refer you out to counsel who specializes in copyrights, patents, and trademarks, but it’s worth the effort to ensure your investments retain their value.

An example would be putting copyright information on your business documents.  You can insert the © that indicates “copyright” in your document, along with a date and an identifier, such as © 2013, Brand Irons.  While we don’t pretend to be attorneys, we do believe that simple act sets precedent.

As we understand it, where the legality gets sticky is if you pursue a violation through the court system, you have a far better chance of getting a favorable judgment if that copyright has been registered with the Copyright Office of the Library of Congress.  The fee may be as little as $35.

If you’ve talked to someone who either has or has tried to obtain a patent, you have probably heard pros and cons about the merit of having one on your product or idea.  These are processed through the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.  The key to having a patent on your invention is less about the filing process than it is about protecting your concept and product from being stolen by a potential competitor.  This is where your legal counsel can provide a valuable service.

If you have a patent, as we understand it, you should obtain signed non-disclosure and non-compete agreements with any parties interested in learning more about it.  The key is the signature and the date, especially if there’s an expiration attached to the document.  This, as we’re sure your lawyer would tell you, is the first step in protecting what you have. You must then take every other step necessary to ensure you enforce the provisions of your patent protection.  Again, consult and engage your attorney to handle these efforts for you.  You want counsel handling these matters so you can run your business.

When it comes to protecting your brand with a trademark, there’s a 7-step process to start with on the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office’s website.  From a protection standpoint, having a mark on your logo, service or product name indicates you have taken steps to protect the theft of your brand identifiers.  Will it deter knock-off competitors?  It should if the potential rival has scruples and business ethics, but remember that competition in our global economy relies on following the leader.

Yes, you should be flattered that someone is mimicking your brand concept.  You should also be aware they are diluting the market by causing confusion among consumers who have yet to establish their loyalty to your brand.  Setting the precedent of shutting down imitators sends a strong message through the marketing world that your brand is, indeed, your brand and one that will be protected at all costs.

Will there be emulators?  Yes.  Will there be loopholes in sustaining your legal rights to copyrights, trademarks, and/or patents and in protecting your brand?  Yes.

Your strength in these matters lies in the strength of your brand.  The more you create a unique identity that consumers associate themselves with, become and remain loyal to, the stronger the case becomes for your brand.

Another aspect of this topic that we’ll leave you with is that you should have a strategy in place for dealing with legal attacks of this nature.  Consider it a crisis, perhaps relatively minor but with potentially significant long-range impact, and be prepared to deal with it.

Think of it this way:  If you discover someone has launched a product with a similar purpose and knock-off logo, you’re already suffering damage.  The sooner you can nip it in the bud, the less significant the potential repercussions.  And remember, Brand Irons is here to help you establish and protect your brand.

Brand Your Work – Work  Your Brand