Every week I’m asked questions by small business owners, and sometimes I get a question that makes me want to call one of my experts to get the perfect answer.
This week’s question: When do you need to create a trademark or register a patent for your concept? How do you determine which one to use and when do you need to take action? This time I called Nellie Akalp, the CEO of CorpNet.com, for help. www.Corpnet.com is an online legal document filing service, that helps entrepreneurs Incorporate or Form an LLC for their new businesses.
Nellie Akalp: A company’s Intellectual Property can be just as important as the balance sheet and financial results, so I do suggest spending some time to explore what’s needed to protect your new website and business. In terms of a trademark vs. patent, here’s what you need to know:
You should obtain a trademark for a product name, company name, logo, and/or tagline. This will help prevent anyone else from trying to use your property (i.e. your logo) for their own business. A patent gives an inventor exclusive rights to manufacture, use, or sell an invention for a certain number of years. If you’ve invented something, you should patent it; otherwise, you don’t have to worry about getting a patent for your business. However, you may also want to consider seeking copyright protection for your website copy. As soon as you write and publish the copy on your website, you automatically own a copyright for the work, but copyright registration provides a public record of ownership, making it much easier to prove ownership should someone copy your website material without permission.
If you are considering getting a trademark, here are a few more details. You’re not actually required by law to register a trademark; use of a name gives you ‘common law’ rights as an owner. But you should consider formally registering a trademark for stronger protection (especially if you’re doing business in more than one state). Registering a Trademark application with the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office) is a relatively easy process. Expect to pay approximately $325 in application fees per class and the process can take anywhere from 9-12 months once your application is submitted. Note that the process for a Patent is a bit more complicated and can take up to six years to complete so entrepreneurs normally bring in an attorney which can lead to about $7 – $15k in fees.
Do you have a small business question? Do not hesitate to ask.
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Melinda F. Emerson, known to many as SmallBizLady is America’s #1 small business experts. As a seasoned entrepreneur, professional speaker, and small business coach, she develops audio, video and written content to fulfill her mission to end small business failure. As CEO of Quintessence Multimedia, Melinda educates entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 companies on subjects including small business start-up, business development and social media marketing. She writes a weekly column for the New York Times You’re the Boss Blog. She hosts #SmallBizChatWednesdays on Twitter 8-9pm ET for emerging entrepreneurs. She also publishes a resource blog http://www.succeedasyourownboss.com Melinda is also bestselling author of Become Your Own Boss in 12 months; A Month-by-Month Guide to a Business That Works.