Five Common Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make with Intellectual Property

Finally, you’re all set. Business is booming; you’re ready to take those ideas to market; things are looking up. Before you jump feet first into the world of intellectual property, take a look at these common mistakes before you get started.

1. Not knowing what you need

Does your company use a unique logo for its branding? Do you have special design for the shape of your packages? Do you include a standard letter to all of your clients letting them know about the quality of your items and the care that went into that product? If you answered yes to any of these, then you may have intellectual property that can be protected! But which one? Copyright, trademarks, or patents? Maybe all three! Knowing what you have is the first step to identifying where you need to go next – and knowing who to contact. Patents and trademarks are filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and copyright is handled by the U.S. Copyright Office. Not sure what you need? Take the IP Awareness Assessment from the USPTO to get you started in the right direction.

2. Underestimating or overestimating costs

Have you heard someone say “Well, my friend said I just need to send $200 to the trademark office and I can get my stuff done” Or, “patents are too expensive, it’s not worth my time and money so I should just give up”. Have you checked out the application fees for a patent? Do you know how many goods or services you have for your trademark? Make sure you double check the fee schedule! Depending on how you file, you might be able to save a few extra bucks. But remember, if you get your patent or trademark granted, you’ll need to keep up with maintenance fees to keep your status. If you decide to hire an attorney, make sure you know up front what they charge.

3. Not crossing t’s or dotting i’s

Did you file a provisional patent application and want to move on to the nonprovisional? The USPTO states,

  • In order to obtain the benefit of the filing date of a provisional application, the claimed subject matter in the later filed nonprovisional application must have support in the provisional application.
  • The nonprovisional application must have at least one inventor in common with the inventor(s) named in the provisional application to claim benefit of the provisional application filing date.
  • A provisional application automatically becomes abandoned when its pendency period expires 12 months after the provisional application filing date by operation of law.”

You worked so hard getting the perfect business name and now you want to protect it. Great! Did you identify the correct goods(s) or service(s) when you filed for a Teas-Plus application? Make sure you submit the right specimen in order to avoid refusal.

4. Not navigating the red tape

You made a video of your device or showed it off at an expo, no big deal, right? Maybe, but depending on the time frame and whether you had the correct applications filed, it might have shot your chances of getting federal protection of your intellectual property. According to the USPTO:

In order for an invention to be patentable it must be new as defined in the patent law, which provides that an invention cannot be patented if:

“(1) the claimed invention was patented, described in a printed publication, or in public use, on sale, or otherwise available to the public before the effective filing date of the claimed invention”

There are certain limited patent law exceptions to patent prohibitions (1) and (2) above. Notably, an exception may apply to a “disclosure made 1 year or less before the effective filing date of the claimed invention,” but only if “the disclosure was made by the inventor or joint inventor or by another who obtained the subject matter disclosed… from the inventor or a joint inventor.”

In patent prohibition (1), the term “otherwise available to the public” refers to other types of disclosures of the claimed invention such as, for example, an oral presentation at a scientific meeting, a demonstration at a trade show, a lecture or speech, a statement made on a radio talk show, a YouTube™ video, or a website or other on-line material.

5. Not getting the information you need

Before you start thinking about getting a patent or trademark, do a little research. Check out the Inventors Assistance Program or Trademark Assistance Center from the USPTO. Do a little light reading from NOLO guides Patent it Yourself, Profit from your Ideas, Patents for Beginners, or The Copyright Handbook. Make an appointment to see a patent and trademark librarian at the Cleveland Public Library downtown. But always, consult with a professional! Librarians can help you find a patent agent, attorney, or IP lawyer right here in Cleveland.