Best Practices in Protecting and Enforcing Trademarks, Copyrights and other IP
Trademarks, copyrighted works, trade secrets and proprietary business information form the core of any franchise system, and are frequently a company’s most valuable assets. Trademarks, including service marks, logos, slogans and trade dress, define the brand identity as presented to the public. The “behind the scenes” business know-how on which the system is built and implemented by franchisees is embodied in a variety of copyrighted and proprietary works – operations manuals, proprietary processes, recipes and formulas, custom software, advertising copy to name a few.
Obtaining, maintaining and enforcing legal protections for these intellectual property interestsisof critical importance to all franchise operations. Following are some best practices to maximize your legal protection.
- Register all trademarks with the US Patent and Trademark Office for all goods and services your business offers.
- Monitor your trademarks as used on the Internet, in competitors’ advertisements, in publications and other media, and take prompt enforcement action against unauthorized users.
- Register domain names for all of your trademarks, including common misspellings and variations, and registerdomain names if available for names describing the products and services your business offers.
- Place copyright notices on manuals, customized software and other proprietary business materials.
- File copyright registrations with the U.S. Copyright Office for important works that are likely to be copied by competitors.
- Place prominent confidentiality notices on important internal business documents, operations manuals, and other proprietary information.
- Have your key officers and employees, as well as franchisees and their managers, sign confidentiality and non-compete agreements.
- Obtain written work for hire / copyright assignment agreements from all outside firms such as software developers, consultants, advertising agencies and design firms that produce any creative works for your business.
The last point is commonly overlooked, but it is a practice that every business must take. If you adopt only one practice as a result of reading this article, it should be this. Without written work for hire / copyright assignment agreements, your business will not have ownership of the copyrights to creative works your company has hired outside firms to produce. You will instead have only limited rights to use the works, and the outside firm will retain rights to use the works for others, including your competitors.
While this is not an exhaustive list, it is a good starting point to evaluate your current procedures. Franchisors that follow these practices will have taken the basic steps needed to secure legal protection for key intellectual property assets.
- James A. Wahl Monroe Moxness Berg P.A.
Personality Test: Are You Fit to Work From Home?
Have you had daydreams of working from home? Of course you have! Whohasn'timagined lazily rolling out of bed, pulling on their slippers, brewing a cup of coffee, and casually strolling into the next room to start “working from home"? It may sound like a fantasy, but working from home (running a home-based franchise or other home-based business) isn’t as easy as it's often made out to be.
Choosing Between a Product and a Service Franchise
There are basically two types of businesses that can be offered by an individual. They can offer Products to their customers which are tangible goods meant for the customer's consumption or they can offer them Services which are intangible and work to make the life of the consumer easier and more convenient. With technologies advancing rapidly and the global demands of consumers changing there is a very thin line dividing the service and product segment of the consumers demands. An example of this can be the purchase of a car from an auto dealer. The dealer not only offers the vehicle at a competitive rate but now has to offer different services as well, such as financing options, after-sales services, ready documentation and other non- tangible services. This kind of merging has made it very difficult to draw a clear line as to the service and product industry but for the sake of argument we will consider a theoretical perspective where you have to choose a traditional product franchise or a service franchise.
18 Questions for Potential Franchisees to Ask Themselves: Part 1
Franchises are among the most profitable business options available, but potential franchisees often have no idea what they should know or ask themselves before they get started in franchising. We've talked to franchisors and franchisees to compile this list (In a two-part series) of the 18 questions you must ask yourself as you explore getting into franchising.