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IP Tips for Business Owners During a Downturn in the Economy

by | May 7, 2020 | Basics of Intellectual Property, Business' Intellectual Property, Intellectual Property

Great ideas and new businesses are often born during downturns in the economy. 

Resourceful people are out of work, or their businesses have been shut down. And they start to think about the business they always wanted to start, the clever new product they considered developing, or even selling their business. 

With time on their hands and no money coming into the business or household, many start thinking of ways they can solve their problems.

I have started receiving calls from these creative people who need advice on new business ideas. Here are a few tips if this includes you.

New Business or Product Names

Take the time to come up with several different names. Then conduct a trademark clearance search to determine if anyone is already using that business name as a trademark or has filed a trademark application for that name.

Distinguish Your New Product or Business from the Pack

Be creative, and take the time to come up with fanciful or arbitrary names for your new business or product. Merely descriptive names are hard to register as trademarks. 

Register New Product or Business Names with the USPTO

Take the time and invest in filing a trademark application for your new product or business name with the USPTO. Even if it is just an intent-to-use application, it can serve as a placeholder for the first date of use in commerce. which is very important in the world of trademarks.

Obtain Copyright Registrations for Original Works

You may develop videos, white papers, manuals, websites, or artwork for your new business or product. Make sure you obtain copyright registrations for your original works from the US Copyright Office before other people start taking your work and using it for their own businesses.

Registered Trademarks and Copyrights May Be Used as Collateral for Loans 

If you decide to apply for a loan or seek out investors to help your business through a rough time, remember your registered trademarks and copyright registrations may be used as collateral, especially if your brand was strong in the marketplace and has continued potential.

Put Together an Inventory of All Intellectual Property Assets

If you decide to sell your business, make sure you have an inventory of all intellectual property assets. The list should include all registered patents, registered trademarks, and copyright registrations.

If you have trademarks and original works (e.g., videos, artwork, music) that you never registered, include a list of these common law trademarks and copyrights in the inventory. This inventory of IP assets adds value to your business bottom line.

Identify Trade Secrets and Implement Information Controls

Whether you are developing a new business or selling an old business, make sure to identify all of the company’s trade secrets. And have proper controls in place to protect those secrets. 

Items such as product pricing, manufacturing costs, customer lists, lead generation, and order volumes seem insignificant when your business is first starting. But they can become important sources of value that you need to protect. 

Consider first, “What information do I have that my competitors don’t?” And then, “What information would give my competitors an advantage against me if they did have it?” 

If you identify any information in response to those two questions, you possess a trade secret that you need to protect by implementing security controls. Trade secrets are one of the most overlooked forms of IP assets. Often, owners don’t realize their value until the secret has already been appropriated by an employee, investor, or unscrupulous competitor.

So as you are brainstorming solutions for your business, make sure your valuable intellectual property assets are properly identified and protected. If you should need some help, contact the Intellectual Property Team at Marks Gray. We are more than willing to work with you.


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