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.
Determining Your Priorities
At its core the decision to open a franchise isn’t a trivial decision. You are making a serious investment, but if you take all of the factors into account it can be an amazing one. But before you get there you need to sit down, analyze your needs, capabilities and limitations in relation to a franchise business. This could take a few days to consider or a few weeks or months. In either case, it is one of the most important steps in the franchising process, so don’t skip it.
The Best Home-Based Franchise Opportunities in the USA
Other major advantages of home-based franchise opportunities are low start-up costs and overhead expenses.The initial investment required for an at-home franchise is typically much lower than a conventional franchise, often in the $15,000-$30,000 range. Some home-based businesses can be started with just $10,000. Since franchisees do not need commercial space, work-from-home franchises also have low overhead costs and require little to no inventory.
Getting Started - What is a Franchise
Most of you are probably already familiar with franchises. You may even patronize a variety of franchised businesses without realising that they are franchises. These businesses range from car servicing and financial services to yogurt and home repairs. According to the International Franchise Association(IFA) franchises employed nearly 9,000,000 Americans in 2015 and generated nearly $880 billion. Franchising is difficult to escape.