Every company, but especially startups, looks for a competitive edge to provide an advantage over other companies. Intellectual property (“IP”) rights and the strategy of how to leverage them may separate a startup from other companies.

Because IP can be an essential part of a business and of significant interest to potential investors, startups often enthusiastically disclose their inventions, technology, and other IP when pitching to potential investors or at public events. However, pitching to potential investors or publicly presenting before protecting the IP can have devastating consequences for companies.

We provide below a few of the reasons why companies should consider protecting their IP before disclosing it to the public.


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globe charts graphsCongratulations! You have developed or launched an innovative new product or service, and your business dreams are becoming a reality. It’s all very exciting.  One thing you may not have considered much, however, is whether your innovations or brand are susceptible to infringement in the international context. Will competitors try to make a knock-off product or steal your trade secrets? Are foreign companies going to ship infringing articles to the U.S. market? Protecting your intellectual property (IP) is key. Here are some fundamental suggestions to thwart such threats to your growing business.
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internet websiteAre your online trademark enforcements efforts being thwarted by inaccurate or inaccessible Whois data? If so, make your voices heard!

Problems with the accuracy and completeness of the Whois global database of domain name registrants are probably not a new thing for your company. We have all been there. You obtain the Whois record for an infringing domain name just to find out it is either registered under a privacy/proxy service or contains blatantly false contact information. If it makes you feel any better, know that you are not alone. The Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) reported that inaccurate Whois complaints accounted for over 60% of informal complaints filed with Registrars between June 2017 and June 2018. If you have experienced the frustration of encountering inaccurate Whois data, be sure to report it to ICANN via its Whois Inaccuracy Complaint Form, which can be found here. All complaints are forwarded to the sponsoring registrar, who must take reasonable steps to investigate and correct the inaccurate data.


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soccer ballWhile all soccer eyes are on Russia, a company in Reno, Nevada has filed two new applications for the trademarks WORLD CUP 2026 – FAN INFO and WORLD CUP 2026 – U.S. TICKETS, just one day after North America was announced as the host of the World Cup in 2026. Also interesting to note is FIFA’s pending application for the mark USA 2026 was filed almost one year before North America was publicly announced as the 2026 host. What does this teach us? A company can gather a lot of competitive intelligence about a competitor or an industry simply by monitoring the trademark records at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). And the beauty of it all is that searching the records of the USPTO is absolutely free here. One simple search would have told the Nevada company that FIFA already has a registration for the mark WORLD CUP, likely a significant impediment to the registration of these marks.
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trademarkChoosing a common or trendy name for your startup opens your company to risk. You might like the name “Company XYZ,” and you might think you’re the “Company XYZ” of your field, but “Company XYZ” might disagree with you. If you are looking to choose a brand or product name, you need to think about trademarks earlier than you think.

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trademarkFor many new companies, coming up with a unique name is not easy. As a result, companies often fall back on the family name of one of the founders as an easy and identifiable way to enter the marketplace. Companies may now want to rethink that approach given the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s (PTO’s) new examination guidelines for trademarks incorporating surnames.

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footballFootball season is upon us again and, with it, the excitement, the thrill of moving the ball forward for a touchdown, and the agony of defeat.  Ups and downs like this are what most start-ups experience. In football, it is important to protect the ball, to play good defense, and to avoid penalties.  Similarly, start-ups need to protect their assets, defend their intellectual property, and avoid incurring unnecessary costs in the future.  Following a few simple “rules” can help your start-up do all of these things.

RULE NO. 1: Stop the rushing game and avoid “illegal formation” penalties. Avoid quick-fix company formation tools you find on the internet.  I know, start-ups hate paying lawyers. (This isn’t unique to start-ups.) You may like your lawyer, enjoy talking to her, appreciate the insights and ideas but, in the end, I know you’d rather not pay me for all of that (why can’t we just be friends, you ask). Why do smart clients nonetheless retain lawyers (like me) knowing full well we have to be paid? Because smart clients, like a good coach, recognize that starting a business is a process and that investment on the front end can lead to considerable savings on the back end.


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trademarkAccording to BrandFinance’s annual report on the world’s most valuable brands, the GOOGLE trademark is the most valuable brand in the world; worth over $100,000 million. So how is it that the world’s most valuable brand is the subject of a claim that it has become generic and is no longer protectable?

When a trademark owner develops a product category that is new to the marketplace, its success in branding can sometimes be its demise if the brand loses its significance as a trademark and becomes the generic name for the product itself. Think aspirin, escalator, laundromat, and kerosene.

While all of us should be so lucky to develop a brand that becomes so well-known it becomes vulnerable to a trip to the trademark graveyard, this case is a good reminder to all brand owners to have processes in place to avoid such a finding.


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footballThe New England Patriots football organization is a model of success and efficiency in pro football, winning five Super Bowls and appearing in two others in the past sixteen years. The team’s rosters are frequently composed of no-name role players and former stars willing to accept less salary for a chance to play for a championship.  They draft smartly, don’t overpay players and have managed to hold onto star quarterback Tom Brady.  In short, they demonstrate vision and planning to ensure success.

These traits apply to the team’s approach toward trademark protection as well. Two days after winning this year’s Super Bowl, the Patriots filed intent-to-use (“ITU”) trademark applications to register BLITZ FOR SIX and NO DAYS OFF for, among other things, clothing and entertainment services. The Patriots had not used the marks before; these are marks that the team intends to use in its quest for a sixth Super Bowl championship.


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