The warm weather and beautiful beaches of Miami bring millions of tourists to the area every year, and many decide to stay. This means it’s a great time to start a new venture in this South Florida metropolis. While you’re developing your new product or scouting out the perfect Coconut Grove location, you may not be thinking about protecting your intellectual property, but it’s a worthwhile investment of your time and money. Read on to learn more about the importance of protecting the IP of your Miami-based business.
As a business owner, you own tangible property, like inventory, furniture, and maybe even vehicles. Intellectual property is intangible property that has been created through intellect. The three main types of intellectual property are trademarks, patents, and copyrights. All businesses likely have a trademark of some kind. These can be anything that represents a particular brand in the marketplace. Common trademarks include business or product names, logos, and slogans, though even signature colors, sounds, and smells can become registered trademarks.
Patents are used to protect new and novel inventions. There are two main types of patents. The first is a design patent, which protects the appearance of a product, like the unique shape of the Volkswagen Beetle. Utility patents, on the other hand, protect inventions that actually affect how the product works. Dyson, for example, has several patents protecting how their vacuums function. Copyrights, on the other hand, protect works of authorship, which include creative products like art, song lyrics, and novels.
It’s possible that your business may require protection for more than one type of intellectual property. For instance, your business may need to protect its business name and logo through trademark registration, but your product could require patents if the design or utility are considered new and novel.
A stellar product or service will help a business to gain initial success, but for long term viability, it’s all about building a strong brand. Your intellectual property plays an important role in creating and building your brand’s image. Your logo, for example, is a form of advertising that helps to create brand recognition and customer loyalty. When consumers see your logo, they know that they can expect another high-quality product or service that they’ve come to love from your business.
Without a registered trademark, however, another business may decide to use your logo for themselves. Whether that choice is intentional or unintentional, the consequences could be devastating. Your brand’s reputation is now tied to the other business, which could be damaged if their products are inferior. In addition, the infringement could cause enough confusion to sway even loyal customers from your business.
Protecting IP could also help you avoid legal disputes in the future. Once you’ve registered your trademark, patent, or copyright, you will be well within your legal rights to take actions against anyone using your IP without permission. You’ll also have peace of mind, knowing that you are not unknowingly infringing on another business or individual.
The process to protect your intellectual property is different for each form of IP. Work with an experienced IP attorney in Miami to ensure that the process is done correctly. First, determine which aspects of your business should be protected, and then conduct a search to be sure that your trademark, patent, or copyright is not already being used by another business or individual. Next, file for registration. Patents and trademarks must be registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, or USPTO. For copyrights, an application will need to be submitted to the U.S. Copyright Office.
Once your intellectual property has been registered, it’s important to remain vigilant in confirming that others aren’t using it for themselves. For trademarks and copyrights, one way to do this is to include the appropriate symbol, either ® for trademarks or © for copyrights, where the IP can be seen. You will also need to monitor your IP’s use in the marketplace. Most IP attorneys offer monitoring services to assist you in these efforts, and they can take the appropriate legal action if potential infringement is found. Some businesses utilize Non-Disclosure Agreements, or NDAs, to prohibit employees and business partners from using or sharing the brand’s IP as well.
If your business has reach in a country outside the United States, through sales, distribution, or even manufacturing, you should strongly consider seeking IP registration for that country as well. If you plan to register in a handful of other countries, you may want to submit an application directly with each country’s IP office. International treaties have also been put in place to make applying for patent or trademark protections in multiple countries much easier.
Whether you own a restaurant on South Beach or a design firm in Coral Gables, a strong brand is essential to your future success. In order to maintain your brand’s image and continue to build customer loyalty, you need to protect your intellectual property, including trademarks, patents, and copyrights. First, register with the USPTO to protect your trademarks or patents, or register with the U.S. Copyright Office for copyright protection. Then, maintain exclusivity by monitoring your IP and taking swift action against infringement. Protecting the IP of your Miami-based business will help build brand recognition now and brand loyalty in the future.
Josh Gerben is the founder of Gerben Intellectual Property, a full-service intellectual property firm, with physical locations in Washington, DC, Philadelphia, and Coral Gables. Josh and his team offer trademark, copyright, and patent services. Since 2008, Gerben IP has secured over 5,000 trademarks for clients and has been featured in a wide range of local and national news outlets, including NPR, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Fox News and more.