This is part two of our three-part series with the Bend Law Group. This time I was joined by Tucker Cottingham to talk about intellectual property and brand protection for small businesses, from the small shop to big start-up dreams.
Tucker and team just launched the standalone BLG Trademarks website, and he’s been working on developing that content to benefit Bend Law Group clients. IP involves so many specialty legal services — including copyright and trademark registration, monitoring, enforcement and prosecution — that it really deserves to be broken out separately from BLG’s main legal services. This episode will help any entrepreneur navigate that complex landscape of intellectual property.
Intellectual property is what gets Tucker up in the morning… and what keeps him up at night. He comes from a family of small business owners. He entered law school after doing advocacy work and realizing that the strength of a legal team is a key part of helping people. In this episode, Tucker teaches us that intellectual property is property law. You have a right to protect your property and “police your mark.” As Tucker says, “If you cut corners now, you’ll pay the price later.”
This may not sound like accounting stuff, but that’s exactly why we need to know it. Want to learn how to protect your brand and represent your work to the world? Check out this episode.
If you haven’t heard it yet, check out Part I with Doug Bend about business entity structures and tax implications. Stay tuned for Part III, the last episode in the series, about seeking funding!
In this episode…
- The fixed costs of IP — such as applications and registrations — versus the potential ongoing costs, like cease-and-desists and litigation (yuck!)
- The many types of intellectual property: so-called “soft IP” (copyrights and trademarks) versus technical kinds like patents
- What is a copyright? What is a trademark? What’s the difference?
- Common law rights: the protections your intellectual property already has without needing legal representation
- What to do if someone else is using your brand name for similar services
- When you need to register your intellectual property and how to do it, state versus federal registration
- How to do your due diligence before creating your own brand
- How does insurance cover intellectual property?
- 4 Layers of Protection for all business decisions:
- Entity structure
- Insurance policy that covers the activity
- Contracts on the terms you want
- Human relationships. Remember: people sue people! Try to defuse conflicts just through relationships
- Nasty lawyer letters: What happens when you get one? When do you need to send one?
- When in the development phase should a new business start thinking about IP issues? When is it time to start paying for legal services?
- Cheap robo-legal documents: not much cheaper than BLG’s rates, and way lower quality
- A role-play of an initial consultation with a new BLG client building an app business looking for legal help with intellectual property
- Creating a liability-limiting business entity
- Protecting the name of your company, the name of your product(s), and your logo first
- Making sure you’re protected before you start marketing
- How to handle changes to IP or business entities and what that might cost in legal fees
- General examples of how small businesses should and shouldn’t handle legal issues involving intellectual property
- What’s all this going to cost?
- The various statuses of IP protection and how to communicate them to the public. (For example, what do ™ and ® mean?)
- BLG Trademarks: Protect your brand
- Tucker Cottingham on LinkedIn
- Email Tucker or call him at +1 (415) 294–0522 if you have specific questions about trademark or copyright
- Bend Law Group main website