Top Ten Tips
1. Business entity selection – As attorneys, you know that the business entity your client has directly impacts their personal liability. If your client comes to you with IP, counsel them to consider entity formation.
A third party may be able to reach personal assets which have nothing to do with the business.
Ensure the separation of your personal assets from the assets of the business entity – including intellectual property rights.
2. Learn the Basics of IP. Bone up on intellectual property rights, even if you just read some books on the subject. Knowledge is power.
3. Trademark usage/registration – Have your clients analyze their business to determine what valuable trademarks they have. While trademark rights are common law rights and thus exist even if the mark is not registered, registration provides several advantages.
4. Consideration of third party intellectual property rights – When naming a line of products or designing a logo, be wary of making a choice similar to names and logos already in use.
5. Use nondisclosure agreements. Counsel your clients to use NDAs. Typical NDAs contractually obligate signatories to refrain from disclosing confidential information without the disclosing party's expressed consent.
6. Enforcement of intellectual property rights/Don't Sit on your rights – Once your client's business owns the rights to intellectual property, it is important to consider enforcing them, especially trademarks.
7. Have your client fully develop their idea. Take the time to fully develop the idea before launching it into the universe of IP lawyers. When you come to the table with an idea that has been well researched, your client greatly increase the odds of attracting investors or getting lending institutions on your side.
8. Do not overestimate your position. Just because your client thinks there's no competition out there for their business, don't use that as an argument not to spend the money to protect your idea or obtain necessary opinions.
9. Rely on legal protection. It is impossible to keep an idea under lock and key all of the time. The good news is that the court system is increasingly recognizing the value of intellectual property and is taking steps to protect your rights of ownership.
10. Be patient. Realize that it takes time to license a patent or obtain a patent, copyright or trademark. In the meantime, you can continue to build and grow your idea under the radar.