Business Law: A Brief Introduction to Vendor Contracts

Just about everybody who does some form of business has vendors. Even vendors have vendors. That’s why it is critically important for business owners to understand the basics of vendor contracts and why they play an important role in most businesses. Vendors come in all shapes and sizes. For example, the office supply store where you buy your printer paper is a vendor, as are the global suppliers of wood for IKEA. ... Read More

How Much Money Does Your Company Need to Launch and Survive?

Funding a new business is one of the most misunderstood and hotly debated topics within the entrepreneurial community. It seems like almost any rule is accompanied by an exception. One school of thought is that you need a ton of cash upfront. On the other hand, given the failure rate of new businesses, startup dollars are frequently spent with nothing to show for them.  Others believe a shoestring budget is all that ... Read More

Understanding the Difference Between Actual Use and Intent to Use Trademarks

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) requires use of a mark in commerce in the United States before the mark can be registered. When the Lanham Act (the federal law that covers trademarks) was enacted in 1946, this “actual use” requirement was not popular with everyone. For example, many companies were reluctant to invest the significant amount of capital required to launch a product under a brand ... Read More

Trademark Law: The Madrid Protocol

While “Madrid Protocol” sounds like the name of a great spy novel or a new wave band from the 80s, it is in fact a treaty that allows applicants to search and register trademarks internationally. So if you have a United States trademark registration (or intend to get one) and your business is expanding into other countries, the information in this article is relevant to you. The Protocol Relating to the Madrid ... Read More

What do those Intellectual Property Symbols Actually Mean?

The litany of alphabet letters that sometimes accompany trademarks used in commerce can be particularly confusing, even for the users. The task becomes even more difficult when copyright symbols are factored in. Here’s a handy guide to deciphering the little subscripted letters next to trademarks and copyrights. Trademarks There are three symbols that are used for trademarks: ™, SM, and ®.  We’ll start with ® ... Read More

How are State-Based Trademark Applications Different from Federal Applications?

One unique aspect of trademarks that sets them apart from other types of intellectual property is that they are registrable at both the federal and state level. Copyrights and patents are only registrable at the federal level because they originate directly from the U.S. Constitution. Thus, only the federal government has the authority to issue these rights. Trademark protection, on the other hand, does not arise ... Read More

5 Things Angel Investors Look for in New Companies

Angel investors are typically wealthy individuals who seek to invest capital in and offer guidance to startups. Often angel investors are former entrepreneurs or successful businesspeople themselves, and are looking for a potentially significant return on their investment. Angels are picky about choosing the startups they will invest in, and for good reason. Successful startups can produce exponential returns for ... Read More

Understanding the Difference Between Word and Design Trademarks

The most common trademarks that you are going to encounter in the marketplace are designs (usually called “logos”) or words, or some combination of the two. Besides the obvious aesthetic difference between design and word marks, there are some other more substantial yet subtle differences. In some cases, the biggest difference between the two is registrability. Design marks are usually - but not always - more ... Read More

Starting Your Business on the Right Foot: 7 Documents Your New Company Must Not Neglect

Before you head down the road to starting your new business, step back and take a few moments to consider what you need to do to prepare to take this new journey. One important consideration that is often overlooked is the need for solid documents. The documents to which I am referring are the agreements, minutes, consents, plans, licenses, contracts, etc. that every company should create, sign, or file to get your ... Read More

Trademark Law: Do I Have a Duty to “Police” My Trademarks?

Most people have a general idea of what is meant when I use the term “trademark infringement”. On the other hand, there is a related term that confuses a lot of my clients - that concept is known as “trademark dilution”.  Both are legal terms of art that are related but have different meanings. I’ll start with a brief discussion of what they have in common, and end up addressing a misunderstood but widely held belief ... Read More