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I want to find out if my business plan has any legal pitfalls before I commit myself to it

One of the challenges IP law presents to business-people is its frequent counter-intuitiveness. No one needs to tell you that it’s generally a good idea the comply with contracts, or to avoid mislabeling Grade B meat as Grade A, or lying about your competitors. It’s not that people don’t do these things—and keep lawyers happily employed—but at least no one says, “What? I’m not allowed to do that?” But surprised looks are all too common in IP matters.

IP law just isn’t very user friendly, and it’s pretty hard to start a new venture without at least some significant reliance on intellectual property. For example, if “software” or “IT” is involved, then IP is involved, too. While it’s impossible to predict and prepare for every possible IP-related pitfall—there are, after all, over 2 million extant U.S. patents!—there are some common pitfalls that you can at least be aware of:

Ownership: Do you own the IP you’re developing? If not, can you find out who owns it? Can you license it?

Licensing: Do you really have a license for that? Does the license allow you do what you’re doing? Do you even know who the licensor is (since they often get acquired, go bankrupt or sell their assets)? Does the supposed licensor actually own what it’s purporting to license?

Formalities: Do you need to register anything? When? What are the consequences if you don’t?

Deadlines: What needs to be done now to protect your IP? What can be kicked down the road when you have more funding?

Confidentiality: What do you need to keep secret? How much secrecy is enough? How do you make sure it stays secret? Can you accidentally expose a secret? What if you need to show it to someone outside the company?

Yes, wading through the paperwork is inglorious, but then, there are few things worse than succeeding at a business that relies on IP that you neither own nor control.

Rick Sanders Law sees the whole playing field when looking at the legal landscape of intellectual property, from businesses big and small, foreign and domestic, and from idea to execution. Contact us now, before you need to contact us later.

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