small business IP

Expert Advice: Do Small Businesses Need to Worry About IP?

While protection for intellectual property grows, many small business people are unaware of the pitfalls of going without protection. Below is our interview with Lindsey Olson, Esq., of The Olson Law Firm, PLLC in Rockwall, TX, who provides a wealth of information on the subject.

FUEL: What type intellectual property law do you practice, and why?

Lindsey Olson, Esq.:

The majority of my intellectual property practice revolves around trademarks and copyrights. Patent law is a specialized practice involving additional licensing, so many patent lawyers practice patent law exclusively.

I also work with trade secrets. Trade secrets are not actually registered with any agency (the very essence of a trade secret is that you do not reveal it to any other person), but I do draft and advise on non-disclosure agreements and internal best practices to protect trade secrets.

FUEL: How quickly is the area of intellectual property law growing, and why?

[Olson] IP law is growing at a very rapid pace, especially among small business owners. I believe two factors contribute to the growth: expansion of markets and the increased availability of information.

As our economy becomes more and more national (and even global), companies are faced with an increasing need to protect their information as their pool of competitors grows. A local business that only deals in a very defined market may not see a need to trademark their logo or protect their proprietary business practices since the pool of competitors is very small and the likelihood of another local business copying their IP is relatively low.

“A local business that only deals in a very defined market may not see a need to trademark their logo.” – Lindsey Olson, Esq.

In contrast, as that company’s market area expands, its exposure to competitors grows as well. This may increase the chance of an infringement issue, so the need for protection of the company’s IP becomes more of a priority.

What is more, small business owners now have access to a greater amount of information than ever. Before, much of a business owner’s information about the legal system was anecdotal and non-specific. Now, business owners can read and hear about real-life IP infringement and protection through a myriad of online resources. This makes the need for protection tougher to ignore.

FUEL: Do you think intellectual property rights stifle competition or innovation?

[Olson] Not at all. I think companies are more motivated to develop new products, processes, and ideas that further their business objectives, because they have an assurance that competitors can likely be kept from using the resulting IP. An inventor has little incentive to develop a new product if he or she knows that another person can copy that concept and profit from it just the same as they can.

'An inventor has little incentive to develop a new product if he or she knows that another person can copy that concept.' Click To Tweet

FUEL: Does the typical small business owner consider intellectual property protection when setting up a business?

[Olson] Unfortunately, many small business owners do not typically set themselves up to have strong IP rights during startup, but attempt to address the issue once a problem has arisen. Unfortunately, more often than not they are behind the 8-ball at that point, and do not have the protective or defensive options that they would have had if they had protected themselves from the beginning.

Most business owners who do consider IP protection during startup have either had a previous business with IP considerations or have worked for another company dealing with IP issues.

FUEL: What advice would you give a person who is starting a business regarding intellectual property?

[Olson] If any money or effort is going into a branding campaign, R&D, a customer database, name recognition, product, or packaging design, etc., make sure to speak to an IP lawyer before getting started to prevent a legal pitfall down the road.

Many lawyers offer free consultations or pay-by-the-hour advice to help pinpoint the best use of a business’s startup legal budget. That could be the guidance that prevents a business from devastating losses due to infringement or misappropriation issues at a later time.

Ms. Olson owns a practice in Rockwall, Texas, where she offers an array of services for small businesses, including intellectual property law, contracts, employment law, and entity formation management.

Disclaimer: While the information contained in this interview touches on various intellectual property issues, it is not comprehensive information. This information is for educational purposes only and is not provided as legal advice. Do not substitute any information on this page for the advice of a lawyer with whom you have an attorney-client relationship. Nothing on this page creates an attorney-client relationship between The Olson Law Firm/Lindsey Olson and any other person.

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