Guest Post by attorney Kevin Handy, Esq., founder of SnapDivorce®
When I embarked on starting my most recent business, SnapDivorce® LLC, which provides divorce mediation services,[www.snapdivorce.com] one of the first things I did was turn to IP Works to research the availability of the name “SnapDivorce” and secure exclusive rights to it nationwide. I did this before making any other significant investment in the name, including incorporating it or developing a logo. The only other initial action I took was to secure the domain name “snapdivorce.com.” As an attorney and serial entrepreneur, I knew the importance of securing the intellectual property (“IP”) rights to a potential brand name before investing any significant amount of time or resources into developing it.
When people think of intellectual property, they typically think of patents, which protect inventions. IP, however, also includes trademarks and copyrights, which are vitally important to every business, not just technology companies. Trademarks protect your brand names and logos. Copyrights protect any written materials you develop to support your business (forms, manuals, website content, etc.).
Every savvy business owner knows that customers don’t just buy your products and services. They buy your brand. Your brand is what people think about you, and what differentiates your business from your competition. Take Starbucks, for example. Without the that name on the door, your local store would just be another unremarkable café selling overpriced coffee.
Unless you are in an unusual asset-heavy business, such as real estate, manufacturing or commodities, your brand identity is what makes your business valuable. That’s why you need to protect it through trademarks and copyrights. Trademark and copyright protection is especially important if you hope to build a business that is more than local in nature, one that you can franchise or license, or one that you can sell in the future. That’s my goal and it’s why I knew that protecting the name “SnapDivorce” from the beginning was crucial.
Fortunately, protecting your business name and other IP from the outset is relatively easy and affordable – in most cases probably just a few thousand dollars. It will be money well spent. If you are going to be pouring a significant amount of money and sweat equity into developing a brand, you’ll want to protect it. Think of it as an insurance policy that pays off with your success. The more successful you are, the more it will pay off.
That’s why you need to get engage a competent IP attorney from the start—before you commit to a name or brand strategy. Add this relatively simple task to the top of your business start-up checklist.