Technology Attorneys

Identifying Your Company’s IP

We live in a world that is greatly influenced by technological advancements; business, health, education are just some of the spheres where we have witnessed revolutions. One of the more obvious changes is in business with automation, big data, machine learning, etc. But more interestingly, corporate value has evolved from the physical to the digital. Nowadays, your company’s value can literally lie in your Intellectual Property (IP).

Tech companies are created to meet the ever-growing demand for technology products. They offer a range of products and services that make it easy for individuals, organizations, and countries to adapt to the high-tech world that is our modern reality. To offer the best services, they have to protect their IP. But protecting their IP can only happen when said IP has been identified and registered. So, if you are looking to identify and protect your tech company’s IP, then you might want to read this article to the end.

List Company Products and Services

This allows you to create a list of your company offerings or product lines. It might be a tasking and time-consuming operation, but it is worthwhile in the long run as you will be able to identify all the IP in your business. Especially those that you didn’t know about. Your company offerings can either be products or services. 

  • Products: These are made to sell or gift. Products are tangible and easily identified.
  • Services Are more intangible are often rendered to customers. Services are often in the form of gene knots, software-as-service or technology consulting. In most cases, services go hand-in-hand with products. It all depends on what your tech company is about.

Categorize

The next step is to categorize your tech company’s products and services. While this is not exhaustive, here is a description of the main categories of IP.

  • Trademark: This can cover the company name, logo, slogan or the names of products and services. Trademarks are designed to separate your company’s offerings from others in the market. They are your corporate identity and should be protected at all costs.
  • Patents: This coversinventions. Registered patents give your company the right to exploit the invention within the time frame specified in the patent registration.  Patent law is a specialty within IP and you should consult a patent attorney to see if your invention can be registered and whether a patent or provisional patent is for you.
  • Trade secrets: They are considered as the alternative to patents and are mutually exclusive.  The best example of a trade secret is the Coca Cola recipe.
  • Copyright: Copyright protection covers tangible expressions of ideas. The product has to be original. Your company software and computer programs fall into this category. Review the categorizations so that you know where your offerings fall into. Be sure to put them in the right category because this will affect the way the IP is protected.

Assess 

A strategic assessment of your assets and protection will help your business in its valuations and get it ready for sale, if that’s your direction.  Too broad of an IP portfolio might be costly and hard to maintain running the risk that your important IP may fall through the cracks in terms of maintenance and policing.

You want to assess what is key to your brand and you should do so on an ongoing basis.

Assess Your Intellectual Property

Protect Your Intellectual Property

Ways to Join Forces with another Company

For so many tech start-ups and new businesses, one way to boost performance, increase profit and stay competitive is teaming up with seasoned professional and companies that are skilled in the game. Through these firms, the new start-ups can have an amazing opportunity to participate in government contracts as subcontractors and also get the exposure and experience to scale through the competitive business landscape while receiving detailed guidance from experienced contractors. 

In teaming up with other businesses, there are some level of partnership and agreement that must be entered into by both firms. Some of these terms include the following:

Strategic alliance: Strategic alliance is a relationship between two or more businesses in orders to pursue a set of agreed goals and meet a critical need while remaining independent. This allows companies, especially start-ups, to expand their documented capabilities and pursue projects beyond their normal capabilities.

Teaming agreement: This, on the other hand, involves two firms, partnering on a single proposal. It can also be described as a prime/subprime contract between two parties where one of the teams pursue a contract as the prime vendor.  The terms between the prime and subprime vendors are outlined in the Teaming Agreement.  One of the benefits of this type of contract is that it allows parties to pool resources from a limited purpose without acquiring a joint venture entity. 

Collaboration contract:  This is also known as a collaboration agreement; it involves two people or companies collaborating to pursue a defined goal. It is a specie of unincorporated joint venture because the collaborators must also contribute resources and decide who owns the proceeds. 

Joint venture: This involves two different companies, individuals or businesses coming together to partner as joint parties. These companies agree to combine their skill, knowledge, efforts, and resources but not permanently.  Each party maintains their own identity.

Things to consider when choosing a partner

As a start-up, there are so many factors to consider before entering into an agreement or any form of contract with tech companies and professionals; some of these factors include:

  • Positive client standing
  • Clarity of commitment and communication
  • Business ethics and trust
  • Capabilities to deliver on time.
  • Does your contract allow for Subcontracting?  Check the fine print.

Finally, every tech start-up entering into an agreement with professionals must understand all terms in an agreement before teaming up with one. 

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About Framing Out Your Joint Business Rleationship

Work From Home Policies

In the past, work from home was rare and unpopular because many employers believed their workforce could be easily distracted at home. However, the pandemic has fast forwarded this practice to almost become the norm in some sectors. Employers have begun to see the many benefits of the work from home model, which includes increased productivity and efficiency, protected public health (especially with the outbreak of Covid19), less need for office space, and so on.

 

Also, the enabling technologies for implementing work from home are increasingly more available and easily accessible. Employer’s now more than ever must create work from home policies to ensure productivity and prevent lapses in workflows across the various levels of operations.  It is also imperative to discuss the various ways the employee must comply with policy to ensure that company data is secure and uncompromised. 

 

Determine which roles can be done remotely

 

It is crucial to know from the onset which roles can shift seamlessly from the office to the home because some functions within the organization demand physical presence. For instance, a forklift operator cannot function from home, whereas a software developer can easily perform their duties from anywhere via a laptop and internet connection. Also, investigate those roles that are office-bound, or warehouse-bound and find out what functions can be performed remotely by those in these roles. 

 

Decide what rules and company policies should be followed

 

It is critical for employers to clarify which rules, regulations, and policies of the company still apply to work from home and what is new for those that work from home. Because these employees will want to know exactly what is expected of them in this regard. Usually, all standard company policies and resources such as code of ethics, attendance policy, professional code of conduct, sick leave, and the confidential agreement still apply. 

 

Establishing metrics to measure the success of your remote model policy

 

Metrics and goals should always be a part of day to day work no matter where your employee has their ‘office’.  So, I won’t get into that here because I also feel that there is a level of maturity and responsibility that goes with work from home.  It goes towards the concept of Results Oriented Work Environment; ROWE, that was introduced a few years ago.

 

Items to Consider in Updating Policies:

 

Technology:  Employees need to make sure they have the right technology to complete their tasks.  If there is a work from home budget allowance, specify what kind of technology they should have.  Often, cheap comes with poor security so you should allow for software, subscriptions and hardware in that budget that have security as a priority instead of free software that leaves your data vulnerable.  Also, make sure that they have their own secure, Wi-Fi connection, using a free or mobile hotspot might not give the security or speed your employee needs.  This is particularly important for REMOTE workers since they are mobile, their internet connection may change from day to day. 

 

Access to work systems.  We have come along way since Citrix Remote Access and I still cringe to think about how S L O W Citrix was.  But happily, with the advent of Dropbox, GDrive and Office 365.  Enterprise solutions allow you to control how your employees access company data.  Again, this is where free can get you in trouble.  An enterprise solution will also allow you to REMOTE WIPE a device if (or should I say when) your employee misplaces a laptop or phone.  Or, if you need to terminate employment.

 

Tech support.  Pro-actively offer the assistance of your internal tech support to ensure that the technology and hardware that your employee is using is fast, effective and secure.  This is not the time for self-help measures.

 

Client confidentiality.  While security and connectivity are important, consider that now, your employee may not have a designated workspace at home.  Important documents maybe be available for anyone to read if their workspace is, let us say, the kitchen table.  BE CLEAR that all documents should be securely held where third parties cannot view or access.  Or, that no printing is allowed or encouraged.  After all, haven’t we come so far with paperless offices?

 

 Communication.  Your Policies should also include HOW you want your employees to communicate with clients and internally.  Data retention policies need to be adhered to regardless of medium.  Encourage the use of internal tools like Microsoft Teams, or Google Meet to control the data retention and security.  The use of texts is now a normal day to day work occurrence but your employee’s should be aware that even that should be subject to data policies and act accordingly.  A best practice should be communicated to your employees.  

 

It is important to be clear about how and where you want your employees to work remotely or from home. 

 

The goal here is to discuss security and policy that will help your company stay compliant with IT security and other regulations such as privacy.  And moreso, how education is so important that your employee understand the why behind these policies.

 

Conclusion

 

 

A work from home policy is essentially an agreement that outlines everything needed to allow employees to work from home without causing any disruption to company goals and procedures, and these tips will help employers do just that.  While the above are general guidelines, every company has specific needs.  Talk to us today to help you update your policy!

What’s in a Name? EVERYTHING!

Congratulations on your decision to start a new business (and your subconscious decision to forego sleep…)!  Deciding on a business name might very well be the most important decision you make; it can make the difference between a strong branding campaign or perhaps (gasp!) having to change your name.

You name/brand will, of course, be your product or service name, but also your domain name and often your corporate name (you are incorporating, right?).

So, before you choose your name, consider the following:

  • Choose a Unique Name
  • Make the Name Brief
  • Make the name memorable and easy to spell

1) Choose a Unique Name. When you select a business name you are really branding your business.  Branding isn’t just for the big boys, it is crucial to any business as it can give you a competitive edge in the marketplace.  After all, you need to make it easy to find you.  A brand is “A name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.”  In other works, a trademark.

2) Make the name brief (three to six words).  Long names are hard for customers to remember.  You want customers to remember the name AND be able to tell other people what it is. It is also important that the name be short for promotional purposes e.g. domain names, business cards, displays or advertising ads. Which can ultimately save you on cost for advertising, printing, etc.

Try to make the name descriptive of your product or services, but not too descriptive.  If the name is descriptive it can actually draw business to itself.  It makes it easier for potential customers to identify the type of business and locate you, especially if you are just starting out.  On the other hand, if it is too descriptive, you run the risk that the trademark office might reject your trademark application.

4) Make the name memorable and easy to spell.  Potential customers need to be able to remember your business name. They also need to be able to find it easily if they’re looking for it online or in a phone directory.

There are legal implications to consider when selecting a name for your business.  You must make sure to avoid misleading names.  Avoid names that are similar to other companies as to avoid any trademark implications.  Also, do not imply professional credentials that do not exist for example if you are in the health care field but are not a medical doctor do not include MD in the name meaning to imply such.

Once you have a name in mind it is best to research the potential name to make sure it is not already in use.  There are several was to research potential business names.  Some suggestions are:

  1. Popular Search Engines
  2. Patent and Trademark Office
  3. Local business directories in your market (public library or business license offices).
  4. Department of State

 

IMPORTANT:  Just because the domain name is available and/or the name is available with your department of state does NOT mean there isn’t a concern for trademark infringement.  We will talk more about this later, but it is important to research the name or consult a trademark attorney before settling on a name.

Contact Us Today Regarding Your Intellectual Property

 

PROTECTING A BRAND ONLINE AND WHY THE CHATTER MATTERS

According to the definition by the American Marketing Association, the legal term for brand is a trademark.  While that may be true, and brand may not be possible without a trademark, a brand should be viewed as more than that.  Saying that a brand is a trademark seems too passive, as if merely registering a mark, or marks, is enough to maintain one’s brand.  On the contrary, the owner of a brand has to be very active in building and policing that brand in order to build up good will in that brand and its marks, increase value in the market and avoid losing those marks and/or market share in the marketplace.  In this article, we will explore the steps a brand owner needs to take in order to build and protect their brand online with the advent of social media.

The first step to brand protection is to own the intellectual property.  While the laws of the Internet are sometimes slow to progress, protection of intellectual property is the best offensive to protecting the brand online.  While one way to do that is to register the trademarks, such as name, logo or slogan, another great protection is copyright registration.  Whether it is to register articles, blog posts, designs or even the website, copyright protection is part of protecting the brand offering and another line of attack against infringers.

Why is brand protection so important?  It is easy to get lost in the massive amounts of information online, but at the same time, it can also be easy to differentiate from the rest through effective branding.  Social media and social networking are especially suited to developing and maintaining the brand.  Done the right way, connect to consumers, build a following and then remain relevant as the market changes.  Doing so will help create customer loyalty and make it easier to sell existing and new products and services. At the same time, it can control any likelihood of confusion in the marketplace with other products, avoid dilution and more importantly genericide, and even control the cost of marketing.  Branding online can also make it easier to quantify the return on investment.  Social media allows one to monitor online campaigns. By using certain tools one can see what is and is not working in the online marketing strategy and make changes accordingly.

The effects of not monitoring the brand or letting someone else dictate how the brand is portrayed online can be devastating to the company.  It is unnecessary to point out how every marketing dollar counts.  The effects of brand abuse will bring a decline in revenue and more marketing dollars to offset the damage.  Moreover, by allowing competitors or even consumers to use the mark generically or in ways that are not unique to the brand, can risk the mark getting cancelled in the Trademark Office for becoming generic.  Next time you have a headache and turn to your trusty aspirin, take a moment and consider that aspirin was once a trademark.

Examples of Brand Abuse:

  • Keyword or PPC Abuse;
  • Cybersquatting;
  • Defamation;
  • False Association, etc.

Contact Us Today to Talk about Your Brand Protection