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Essential IP Concerns for New Businesses

May 24, 2020 General

Experienced Oregon Business Attorney

Intellectual property (IP) is increasingly important to businesses in the digital age. There are more eyes than ever before on IP — trademark and copyright assets may be shared by millions online.

Trademark and Copyright

Many business clients don’t necessarily know where to begin. They understand that they have potentially valuable intellectual property, but they might not be able to delineate that IP and identify avenues for legal protection.

For example, a local fast-food restaurant with plans to eventually franchise may not realize that their logo and name is not the only protectable IP that they own. In fact, if they have a distinctive decor style, that could be protectable pursuant to trade dress law. This decor style would help to identify and market their fast food restaurants as the franchise-reach expands over time.

Ultimately, most new businesses should have a few priorities in mind as they move forward: to register their trademark and copyright IP, identify potential infringement and enforce their rights as appropriate.

IP Market Strategy

It’s not enough to merely protect IP — doing so must fit your budget, market strategy, and long-term commercial goals. Paying to simply make an attempt at patenting various IP may not be the best decision in this broader context.

Trade Secret Protection — a Potential Alternative to Patents

Trade secret protection is a fantastic alternative to patent protection, particularly in situations where the underlying intellectual property is either not qualified for protection under patent law, or is potentially patentable, but going through the patent protection process is not economically feasible or desirable for whatever reason.

One commonly-used example of a trade secret is the famous Coca-Cola recipe, which has still not leaked after more than 100 years of use. If Pepsi were to steal the recipe from Coca-Cola through corporate espionage, then they could be sued and held liable, as the trade secret is enforceable under the law.

A trade secret will be granted legal protection against “misappropriation” by third-parties (i.e., corporate espionage) if it is economically advantageous, confidential, and if you have made efforts to keep the trade secret confidential. Keeping a trade secret confidential is a strategic issue that can be resolved by limiting the exposure to a few trusted employees or by making employees sign non-disclosure agreements (NDAs).

NDAs are a necessary tool for limiting the potential for a trade secret getting “leaked” to the public (and thus undermining its enforceability).

Contact Yellow Dog Legal for Help

If you would like to speak to an experienced attorney about navigating the many intellectual property-related issues that most new businesses have to overcome as they grow, Yellow Dog Legal can help.

Founding attorney Nicole Schaefer works closely with new businesses to comprehensively address their IP needs, developing and implementing an IP strategy that not only protects their valuable assets, but that is aligned with the growth trajectory of their business.

With many of her clients, Nicole often takes on a business counsel role, which gives her insights into the business and market strategy of the client’s business. This is particularly relevant when managing IP-related issues, as the correct legal decision is dependent on both the legal and market ramifications of that decision for the business.

Ready to speak to Nicole about your IP-related concerns?

Call Yellow Dog Legal at 971-350-8516 or complete an intake form online to schedule a consultation today.