Owning a business is exciting at times, frustrating at others, but always demanding. There are so many decisions to make on a daily basis, and often, as a business owner, you not only have to make the decisions, but must also roll up your sleeves to make those decisions bear fruit. One decision you should make early as a business owner is determining who will be your trusted advisors to guide you through the legal and accounting issues your business will encounter. Selecting a professional to assist you with legal and accounting decisions is vital to launching and maintaining a viable enterprise, because decisions made early in the formation of a business can have far reaching consequences down the road.
In my practice, I often see clients who chose to handle matters without engaging attorneys and accountants early in the process, and later failed to recognize issues as they arose during the day-to-day operations of the business. Those decisions can cost business owners far more money down the road than hiring the appropriate professionals in the beginning, and can have a significant effect on the ultimate success or failure of the business. I have found those mistakes fall into seven basic categories. This is Pitfall number 5 of 7 common pitfalls I see businesses owners make. Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing all 7 of these pitfalls and proven ways to prevent them.
Pitfall # 5 – Failure to Protect Intellectual Property
Types of Intellectual Property — what is intellectual property? Most companies have heard of patents, copyrights and trademarks, but seldom recognize the need to protect certain aspects of the business which safeguard unauthorized use of this type of property by others. Patents protect ideas, concepts, systems, or mechanisms which are novel and unique. Specially licensed attorneys practice patent laws, and the regulations for filing patent applications and maintaining patents require their special attention. Copyrights protect creative expression fixed in a tangible medium. Examples of copyrighted materials are written works, music, and video. Trademarks protect designs, phrases or words which brand a product, service or business. Registration of copyrights and trademarks can provided added protection for a business. Any business that creates a brand, creates an idea or publishes a creative expression should consult with an intellectual property attorney to determine if their idea should be protected from unauthorized use by third parties.
Trade secrets are certain commercial information about a business which is not disclosed to the public, such as a customer list, the McDonald’s secret sauce recipe, or a business plan which must be maintained in secrecy for the success of the company. Contracts with trade vendors, employees, consultants, and anyone else invited into a business and given access to trade secrets should contain special provisions to protect the integrity of a company’s trade secrets.
About the Author
Ashley focuses her practice on Outside General Counsel Services and Business Bankruptcy and Creditor’s Rights Practice Areas. She is an effective, results-driven advocate for her clients. Her background of 30 years in business bankruptcies, distressed debt workouts, problem loan recovery, and real estate title and commercial litigation provides her with a solid foundation of general business, accounting and legal skills.