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Strategies for Protecting Your Business’s Intellectual Property

Before launching a business, entrepreneurs spend a substantial amount of time and money researching and developing their products or services and what makes them unique. You may have worked with graphic designers and a marketing team to create a brand name and logo for your products or services. As the business grows and your products or services take off in their correlating marketplace, competitors or counterfeiters may try to undercut you by producing knockoff products or infringing your marks. So what can you do?

Consider implementing a brand protection strategy as part of your advertising and marketing game plan to combat this interference. While it is understandable to want to solely invest in expanding the business and reaching more consumers and clients, you must also protect the assets you have spent valuable time and money creating. As a business owner, there are several things you should do to protect your brand in the marketplace:

1. Create strong and distinctive trademarks:

When selecting a trademark, it is important that the mark be distinctive. The more distinctive a mark, the stronger it is, and the greater protection it may be afforded under trademark law. Generic terms, which name the products or services offered, are the least distinctive and therefore the weakest marks. Trademarks that are merely descriptive of the product or service are also relatively weak and may only obtain limited protection. By contrast, suggestive marks (a step above merely descriptive marks that suggest something about the protect or service, e.g., Netflix), arbitrary marks (such as Shell for gas stations), and fanciful or coined marks (such as Xerox) are the strongest marks. If your mark includes any design elements, they should also be distinctive; more intricate designs may deter copying or counterfeiting.


2. Protect your intellectual property:

Make a list of the intellectual property your business owns to identify elements that should be registered for copyright, trademark, or patent protection. If it is a brand name, slogan, or logo, seeking trademark protection may be appropriate. If you have written content on your website such as a song, book, or another type of creative work, you should consider obtaining copyright protection. If one or more of your products is a unique invention or design process, then you should consider applying for a patent. Patent, trademark, and copyright protection are available at the federal level, and most states also allow you to register your trademark at the state level, which may be an appropriate strategy if your mark is more regional and you are unsure if you are going to enter the national market. If you obtain a federal trademark registration, you can use the “®” symbol in connection with your mark. Use of this symbol deters counterfeiters and confers additional advantages if it becomes necessary to defend your mark. 

3. Inform:

Provide notice on your website, printed advertising, marketing materials, and packaging that you own certain trademarks, copyright, and patents. In some cases, failure to display notice of ownership of your intellectual property rights can waive certain rights. You should also inform consumers about how to spot a fake product and to notify you if they find one. Include a statement in your terms and conditions that the content on your website is the business’s intellectual property and that you will enforce your rights in it. Allow customer reviews on your website. It may alert you that a customer found a cheaper knockoff elsewhere so you can investigate a possible copycat, and it will help you identify issues with a product so you can improve it.

4. Send cease-and-desist letters or file a lawsuit:

You must send a letter to the infringer to demand that the infringer stop using your mark or other intellectual property immediately. In the letter, you should specify the nature of the infringement or unauthorized use, including when and where the infringement occurred and any other pertinent details. You should also inform the infringer that you are claiming ownership of the product or mark at issue and that if the infringing activity does not cease, you will file a lawsuit. If your letters and actions are ignored, you should consult an intellectual property attorney regarding the advisability of filing a lawsuit.  

Creating a brand protection strategy may seem daunting, but so did starting your business. It is crucial to protect the valuable time and money you spent on research and development to create and launch a product or service. An experienced intellectual property attorney can assist you in developing and maintaining your brand protection strategy by helping you identify which assets should be protected and guiding you through the registration process. We can also help you create terms and conditions for your website, send cease-and-desist letters to an infringer, and file an infringement suit if necessary. Visit this link to set up a consultation. 

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