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LEGAL ISSUES

3 Simple Steps to Avoiding IP Disputes

An entrepreneur shares some tips for securing your brand.
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It happens all the time. An entrepreneur starts a business, with the perfect name, brand, and domain.

They set up a fan page on Facebook. Then they organize the entity, pouring time and resources into the project. 

And then, the unthinkable happens.

A cease and desist letter arrives in the mailbox, demanding they stop what they're doing. The letter claims that they're infringing on the other company's trademark. What can they do? 

Fortunately, there's a way to make sure your next brand doesn't become mired in an intellectual property dispute. Here's how to make sure the brand's available long before you start building a business:

Do your homework. 

Always conduct a trademark clearance search before you start using a brand name. A well-researched report will identify any potential other brands your proposed brand might conflict with.

Hire a professional.

Hand-in-hand with the search, have a skilled trademark professional interpret the results. Too many times entrepreneurs rush a product to market believing their brand's in the clear when it's not.

File for protection.

Once you've completed the first two steps, you should immediately file to protect your brand with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Even if you're not using the brand, an intent-to-use application will secure your rights the day that it's filed.

IMAGE: Complot/Shutterstock
Last updated: Sep 25, 2013

MATTHEW SWYERS | Columnist | Founder, The Trademark Company

Matthew Swyers is the founder of The Trademark Company, a Web-based law firm specializing in protecting the trademark rights of small to medium-size businesses. The company is ranked No. 138 on the 2011 Inc. 500.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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