Establishing your brand the right way requires more than just designing your print and online materials and hoping for the best — there’s a legal side to branding, too. It involves protecting your brand by identifying your intellectual property (IP), and filing documents that prevent others from copying and profiting from it. This process can get complicated, so we’ve gathered some of the basic legal concepts you need to know to properly secure your brand from any competitors.
What is IP?
For starters, Entrepreneur points out that there are three ways you can protect your IP under federal law, which include trademarks, patents, and copyrights. Most businesses working on their branding usually need a combination of at least two or all of these rights.
These terms are often wrongly interchanged in conversation, but Special Counsel’s guide to IP law clarifies that each concept targets different areas of concern. Trademarks protect your brand name and logos used on goods or services, while a patent protects an invention and prevents others from using or selling a similar item for a specified period of time. Lastly, copyrights protect “original forms of authorship,” such as any literary, musical, dramatic, artistic, and other qualifying creative works that are perceptible with or without the aid of a machine or device. In addition to this, each state has laws that protect “trade secrets” — or any of the proprietary recipes, formulas, and methods — that give you a competitive edge in your market.
Protecting your IP
If you are seeking to establish a brand, securing the proper IP safeguards is critical. The first step is to trademark your brand, and note that the more unique it is, the more protection it will get compared to a generic name. For instance, “Kodak” will get more protection than “Film Maker,” which may not even be eligible in some states. If you’re creating a revolutionary product or service, remember to file for a patent. Moreover, if you’ve got any “original forms of authorship,” such as songs, record them on something tangible (e.g. a CD) and register a copyright.
When you’re ready, you can register your trademarks and patents on the United States Patent and Trademark Office website, while copyrights can be filed on the US Copyright Office website. Remember to act fast and stay ahead, as conflict or claims from competitors can be made anytime.
Consider hiring an IP lawyer
The registration process for federal and state IP rights can be a little intimidating. Also, enforcing them or filing the necessary forms may be time-consuming and difficult as there are strict deadlines to follow — but fortunately, this is where IP lawyers come in. Thought Co explains that this type of lawyer would be responsible for everything related to your IP, as they can defend your patents or trademarks in court, represent your case if necessary to enforce your ownership of your IP, or write a licensing agreement.
For anyone who prefers that all the pertinent laws are followed to a T, hiring an IP lawyer is the best course of action. In fact, our founder Spencer Brenneman emphasizes that consulting a lawyer is a must where branding is concerned, as there’s no point in having developed a strong brand name in the market when you can get sued into oblivion for misconduct or infringement. Overall, even if you’re unsure about contracting their services, it pays to consult an IP attorney when crafting your brand. It’s also best to reach out to an IP lawyer who specializes in your field, such as e-commerce, pharmaceutical, or various technological industries. This helps you ensure that their skills are best suited for your business and branding needs.