Each January, I reflect on the lessons I have learned from the past year and how my clients can improve on the protection of their businesses and intellectual property assets. So, this past weekend I walked the beach in 70-degree weather, watching the surfers, paddle boarders, and people brave enough to swim in really cold water. I thought about the lessons I learned from my clients in 2023. Here are a few of my thoughts.
New Year Intellectual Property Resolutions for 2024
File a copyright application for creative work within the first 90 days of publication. If you have written a book, recorded a video, created a manual, designed a building, written music and/or lyrics, photographed wildlife, or painted a painting that you plan to share with the public or use to the benefit of your business – it is worth taking the time to do it. A standard copyright application filing fee ranges from $45-$65. You can draft and file the copyright application yourself, if you have the time, or you can hire a copyright lawyer to handle it for you.
If you file a copyright application within the first 90 days of publication, you may pursue statutory damages against any infringers that decide to take your work and sell it for their own benefit. If you wait to file a copyright application, and someone steals your work and sells it as their own, you will be limited to just actual damages, which sometimes can be hard to prove.
Trademark Clearance Searches
Take the time to pay for a comprehensive trademark clearance search. Do this if you are starting a new business or creating a new product or service, and you have selected a trademark that you want to use to market your new business, product, or service. At the very least, conduct a trademark clearance search through the USPTO database, and perform an “all states” search.
I also recommend researching domain names to make sure no one has a similar trademark to yours. If there is another business using a similar trademark for similar services, consider selecting another trademark to avoid confusion among future consumers. No one wants to receive a cease-and-desist letter three years after developing a trademark that is integrated into all their marketing (i.e., website, social media platforms, business cards, signage).
Trade Secret Protections
Identify all company trade secrets, then implement information controls. Trade Secrets are confidential information that is essential to the success of your business, such as mailing lists, recipes, or original software code. Information controls should limit who has access to the trade secrets and set forth proper procedures for access and use.
Make sure that your representations of competitors are true and provable before you launch an advertising campaign against them. If you discover a business competitor that you do not like, you may decide to create an advertising attack against that competitor. However, this can come back to legally bite you if you express something false about them. In a way, this reflects the old saying: “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”
To a Happy and Prosperous 2024!
These are just a few important tips that all business owners should be aware of as they build their businesses. The Intellectual Property team at Marks Gray hopes you experience peace of mind, good health, and success in 2024. If you encounter any IP problems, we are here to listen and guide you.