Benjamin Appelbaum, Attorney at Law

Startups should not skimp on protecting intellectual property

Small businesses and startups in New Jersey might pay more down the road if intellectual property goes unprotected, according to one lawyer who practices intellectual property law. She cautions entrepreneurs not to dismiss costs for setting up copyrights, patents, trademarks or trade secrets as nonessential.

Early establishment of ownership could discourage copycats from attempting to profit from a business's ideas, designs, names and brands. The proactive approach to safeguarding intellectual property could empower a company legally if violations occur because the claim has already been formally asserted prior to the infringement. Otherwise, a late or nonexistent filing for a patent, copyright or trademark could put a company in a defensive position during a dispute.

Member agreements among shareholders should also specifically address ownership of intellectual properties. The document should categorize the intellectual creations of any members, employees or contractors as belonging solely to the company itself. Nondisclosure and non-competition agreements represent the types of documents used to enforce control of the creative aspects of a company.

In many situations, a person can file applications with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office or U.S. Copyright Office to begin the process of registering ownership. Searches for company names, trademarks or brands the same as or similar to the entrepreneur's ideas may also need to be completed. An attorney could help a client investigate the availability of names by querying government agencies and databases. The lawyer might explain legal issues that could arise during the application process. Any piracy or other violations of ownership that arise in the future might also be addressed by an attorney. The preparation of intellectual property litigation could be handled by a lawyer who could document the rights of the client. The lawsuit could pursue goals such as halting the violation and collecting compensation for damages.

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Benjamin Appelbaum, Attorney at Law - Intellectual Property

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