5 New Year Tips for Business Owners
Written by Guest Author, Marks Gray Associate Logan McEwen
Happy New Year! Start off the new decade the right way for your business with the following tips to protect your growth and curb problems early.
Audit Your Trademark Registrations and Business Accounts
The lack of simple oversight often trips up businesses whenever personnel or IT providers change. Make sure problems aren’t lying in wait for you.
From federal trademark registrations to state business filings, important notices about your business are directed to a single point-of-contact. Most commonly an email address. Sometimes that email address belonged to a prior employee or no longer exists after transition to a new domain name.
Even if the method of contact is phone, fax, or U.S. mail, it is a good idea to confirm what is listed. You will save yourself a lot of headache in missing important notices and deadlines.
Compare Operations vs. Contracts
Change is constant. As your business grows or the marketplace goes in a different direction, those changes can add up.
Most business owners don’t want to alter their operating contracts, whether with customers, suppliers, or employees. But it doesn’t take long for risks to pile up.
Revisit your contracts and think about what has changed since they were created.
- Are employees now creating materials that need copyright or trademark registrations?
- How about new inventions?
- Are customers signing contracts with your business’ prior tradename?
It can be easy to identify gaps and potential issues. You just have to look.
Search Your Trademarks
If your business has made it past the infancy stage, you are statistically ahead of the curve. This makes your business a ripe target for new marketplace entrants to imitate and ride your coattails.
When was the last time you did a cursory search of your trademarks and tradenames? Often business owners only become aware of an infringing trademark when it is brought to their attention by a customer or vendor.
While social media previously shed some light on other businesses’ activities, the continuation of online filings and databases for state level business registrations has made cursory internet searches for infringing users much more viable.
- If your trademark is more than one word, you should search within quotation marks, e.g. “Don’t shoot the messenger!”
- Or if your mark is a logo, you can do a reverse image search on Google using a digital copy of your trademark.
Register All Your IP
You may have never registered any of your trademarks or copyrightable material. Or you may have accomplished those registrations years ago.
Now is a good time to verify what is in your IP asset portfolio and what has been registered.
- New or derivative trademarks developed since your last registration may warrant a new application.
- Updates to your product catalog or marketing materials may benefit from copyright registration.
- Implementation of a new manufacturing process could be the subject of a patent registration.
Don’t let 2020 be about hindsight.
Identify Trade Secrets and Implement Information Controls
Your business generates an immense amount of information. The longer you operate, the more valuable that information becomes.
Data like product pricing, manufacturing costs, customer lists, leads generation, and order volumes seem insignificant when your business is first starting but can become important sources of value that you need to protect.
In reviewing the information your business holds, think about these two questions:
- What information do I have that my competitors don’t?
- What information would give my competitors an advantage if they did have it?
If you identify any information that dings both of those bells, you have a trade secret that you need to protect by implementing security controls.
Trade secrets are one of the most overlooked forms of IP assets, because owners don’t realize their value until the secret has already been appropriated by a former employee or unscrupulous competitor.
Best of Luck in 2020!
These are just a few of the tips business owners should arm themselves with as they close out the decade. If you need help identifying areas where you can protect your growth and curb problems related to IP, reach out to the Marks Gray Intellectual Property team.
We wish you good health and great success this year!Share