Innovating and running a company is challenging, and capturing your valuable assets plus making sure you are getting everything in writing is overwhelming too. Some of the five myths below apply at any stage of a business because all of us never stop innovating:
Myth 6: Domain name is the same as trademark
This is almost two myths in one. Not only is acquiring a domain name different from securing a trademark, clever spelling tricks do not work either. The notion that tweaking the spelling of a familiar competitor’s domain or using a different top-level domain (TLD) (e.g., .net or .me) are big misconceptions around using a familiar name for a similar product or company.
A domain name is just that. You can put up a website on a valid domain name and still receive a cease and desist letter if your name is infringing. If I were to sell soft drinks using a website like koke.com or coke.biz, even though I may properly own those domains, I do not have a trademark and I am likely to hear from Coca-Cola’s legal department. Also, I wasted money on the domains and any branding. Make sure you have a professional search done before you grab that domain name!
Myth 7: No one cares if I use this picture
Another way to receive a cease and desist letter, or worse, a hefty fine, is to just grab content off the internet without first reading the fine print. If you did not take the picture or create the content, you need to find out if you have the rights to use it.
Some creators are happy to have their work used for free, even for commercial purposes, and others may license for a small price. There are many software programs now that check for infringement and using something that is not yours will not go unnoticed.
But wait, you may be thinking: “The picture did not have a copyright symbol on it?!” It simply does not matter. If you did not create it, find out how to use it properly.
Myth 8: Open source code has no restrictions
Open source code is an amazing resource for startups and developers but the word “open” can be misleading. Whether you have outsourced the software development work or your team is building the product, ensuring that open source code licenses are read and tracked is very important.
Otherwise you run the same risk as the picture situation. You may be accused of using someone else’s code without permission. It is necessary to read the permissions to ensure that the code is available for you to add into yours and resell. If not, you could be scrambling to redo parts of your application.
Myth 9: Books, records, and insurance are for big companies only
Recently I talked to a startup founder who had raised a million dollars but did not have accounting records. They had bought an accounting software program but not used it yet. To make it through due diligence without financial statements is an exception not the rule. Get organized from the start.
Insurance may sound like a corporate issue but it’s critical to protect your assets, particularly if you operate online, including taking payments via credit card.
Myth 10: IP is for tech companies only
One hundred percent of companies have intellectual property (IP), not just technology or bio-medical ventures. Often IP is only thought of as patent protection and that is another reason why many companies do not believe they need to consider IP until much later.
Not only do all companies have brand IP (think logos and names) that need protection but also many companies have trade secrets (see Myth #2 from the first blog), such as customer and supplier lists, that are mission critical to protect.
The biggest mistake a business can make is to allow the fear of the legal industry to stop them from mapping out their strategy to keep their assets safe and avoid infringement.
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