Western & English Today

SOURCE 17

W&E Today provides retailers and manufacturers with education and ideas that provoke innovation in the Western and English markets.

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30 Western & English Today You can register your trademark with the USPTO in order to assert ownership for exclusive usage on specific goods set forth in the documentation. If the mark is registered, use the symbol aer it; if it is not regis- tered, you designate it with the symbol. One area of trademark used in the fashion industry is a "trade dress," which is a unique non-traditional identifying mark, such as the red Louboutin sole on that company's well- known footwear. Unlike copyrights, trade- marks do not protect you in other countries; they must be filed separately for each country in which you do business. e U.S. has a trea- ty system allowing you to file in other coun- tries through the USPTO. PATENT: Much more intense and expen- sive to obtain, a patent has to be a unique, new invention or novel composition that is not obvious or known to people in that industry. A patent is limited and cannot be expanded. ere are design patents, utili- ty patents for unique materials, and others specific to industries. Patents are very dif- ficult to process, and a lawyer can advise you on how to protect your invention and capitalize on future markets and uses. De- sign patents expire aer 15 years from the filing date and need to be monitored and reviewed, or someone else can take over the patent. Patents are not international; they must be filed separately for each country in which you do business just like trademarks. e USPTO website is a reliable resource for studying intellectual property terms and how to use laws to assist with your products and businesses. However, if you're still un- sure of your knowledge or don't want to take time away from your design and product development, consult with an intellectual property attorney who can be your partner throughout the process. Mona Qureshi-Hart, an intellectu- al property attorney with Hart IP Law & Strategies in Golden, Colorado, has worked with numerous Western lifestyle business- es to protect their products and designs. She suggests that entrepreneurs interview many IP lawyers to find one that fits their personality and size of business. Industry affiliation can be important, as the lawyer or firm may already have an idea on com- petition or terms to research. However, an IP firm or lawyer cannot represent compet- itor products directly, as that may present a conflict of interest. What does an IP lawyer do that you can't do yourself? e expertise of an IP attorney can help you harvest, develop, and pro- tect your intellectual property, so you can properly allocate resources, protect what is yours, and set yourself up for future success. Qureshi-Hart says that the research component involved in intellectual prop- erty protection can be daunting for those not well-versed in where to search or what terms to search for. A lawyer will make sure you are thorough in your application. is saves time and revisions, which may not be possible if information is filed im- properly. She advises that even if you don't have a large budget, it's crucial to involve an IP lawyer in the beginning of the design or development process in order to make sure you aren't spending money on a prod- uct that you can't take to market. If you spend money on samples or pro- totypes, develop a website and marketing materials, and then later discover that someone else has a copyright, trademark protection, or a patent, you can be forced to stop before you even recoup your invest- ment, let alone make any profit. A cease and desist letter can halt your fledgling empire before it even begins, and without appropriate documentation, it is difficult to legally prove you had the idea first. To avoid this devastating outcome, an IP lawyer can not only check for potential conflicts or competition, but also set you up with an appropriate copyright, trademark, or patent ahead of when your products will be out in the public eye. ey can also help set up non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) with potential manufacturers, factories, and employees or consultants. How many times have you walked around trade shows, found something unique, and then a few months later saw numerous iterations of the same product for sale? Oen larger companies with bigger budgets and resources can jump ahead in production, essentially beating a small com- pany to market with existing distribution or manufacturing relationships. To avoid this, having intellectual property protection in place ahead of public showings is important. Copyrights can also be helpful for com- panies that manufacture outside of the U.S. If someone tries to manufacture and import products using your idea when you have the copyright, U.S. Customs can stop the ship- ment at the border, refuse to allow it into the country, and even destroy the goods. Many small companies believe that they don't have the money to hire an attorney or go through the copyright/trademark pro- tection process. However, the future value comes from "owning" the idea or design. You own the copyright, and you can always license the product for manufacture, mar- keting, and distribution, or bring on part- ners or investors. e copyright serves as proof of ownership and has long-term val- ue, whereas goods that you have produced without proper copyrights or trademarks might not. If you ever sold the company or brand, not owning the intellectual proper- ty would devalue your assets. Qureshi-Hart says that the time to se- cure intellectual property protection is when you commit to a design or idea, and determine if it is a benchmark product for your brand or for future business. If you will dedicate resources to it, or see it be- coming a large part of your future product line or expansion, you should seek to ob- tain a copyright before investing time and money into production or marketing. If the idea or product is just a one-off design that you don't see as a long-term area of business or income, or it's not the basis for more products in the future, per- haps it is not worth the time or resources for a copyright or trademark. But without doing the due diligence, you can easily go down a tumultuous path. Everyone wants to have the next big thing and to capitalize on a hot trend in the market. Take the steps to legally protect design, invention, or brand via intellectual property channels, or you may be setting yourself up for disappointment, lost invest- ment, and the dismay of watching someone else profit from your idea. Many small companies believe that they don't have the money to hire an attorney or go through the copyright/ trademark protection process. However, the future value comes from "owning" the idea or design.

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