Every Business Should do an Annual IP Audit - Here’s How
Most internships provide an opportunity for students to explore an industry they want to work in. For Rick Martin, his summer internship after his junior year at Purdue University convinced him he was preparing for the wrong field altogether. His career plan switched from engineering to law.
Martin kept searching the job board at Purdue to figure out a plan to make the transition when he came across a job posting for the US Patent Office. He moved to Washington DC and worked as a patent examiner by day while attending law school at Catholic University at night. It took a little longer to graduate law school this way, but the experience working in the patent office for four-years was invaluable.
After graduating, Martin moved to Texas working first for a very large law firm and then switching to a smaller firm in Austin. However, that firm started growing so quickly that it lost its appeal, and Martin decided to move back home to Evansville to practice with his father. He did some intellectual property(IP) work, but mostly criminal and general legal advice.
Martin didn’t think there was enough intellectual property work in the Evansville-area but soon discovered there was, and two-years ago Martin IP Law Group was formed at Innovation Pointe on Main Street. As a new entrepreneur, Martin decided early on to work with a business coach. While he knows the IP world very well, he wasn’t as comfortable with how he could best market his new practice. He also used a business coach to hone his interactions and approach with clients.
Many companies have intellectual property and may not even realize it. Martin suggests that every business should do an annual IP audit. When advising business start-ups, he suggests they start with deciding on a good name for the business and to trademark it. While a unique name is easier to trademark, a descriptive name helps with marketing. New businesses are advised to do some research to make sure you are not infringing on someone else’s trademark before spending money to market or brand your business or product.
Another priority for new entrepreneurs is to form some sort of legal entity, such as an S-Corp, LLC or Partnership, to protect your personal assets. Legal filings will be required with the state and the IRS. You will need to do this before opening bank accounts for your business. There may also be local filings that need to be made.
Most new business owners are anxious to get a website established right away. Be sure to post a privacy statement as well as terms and conditions and a disclaimer to clarify the way your products, services or website should be used. There are also legal cautions as you develop your marketing plan and materials to be compliant with FTC regulations and anti-spam laws in email marketing. Unless you are creating the content and graphics yourself, care must be taken again to ensure you are not infringing on someone else’s intellectual property.
One additional area a new business may not think to cover is legalizing your relationships. A client service agreement for client interactions; an independent contractor agreement for working with freelancers and contractors, a lease agreement for your office or establishment, along with any other relationships you establish.
Martin IP Law Group is poised for growth as Evansville continues to grow. As our economy and culture moves from open networks to the cloud to the internet of things, it will be more important than ever for businesses think through who owns what, and how they are protecting their intellectual property.