Is intellectual property law important? Let me answer that with a scenario.
Imagine you finally decided to start your own business. You quit your job with pride, withdrew your savings, cracked open your computer, and registered your business with the secretary of state. You smile at your progress because you had the courage to take a step many few are willing to take.
Next, you register a domain name with GoDaddy. You ask your little nephew (who’s studying programming at the local junior college) to begin designing your website. Your domain name is catchy and unique. You spend all night thinking of designs, colors, logos to give to your nephew for the website.
Next, you order those awesome business cards (at a discount rate of course) that beautifully displays your business name, your title, your address, and that awesome logo! You are now up and running as a business!
You encounter a few business growth pains, but it’s all worth it because you are nurturing your own baby. It’s yours. All of yours. You clock-in when you want and you clock-out when you want. Life could not be any better.
You have a decent first year, but the second and third year is awesome! You begin to hire staff, bring on investors, and start aggressively marketing. Your business is rolling!
Then you receive a certified letter from some unknown law office. What could it be? You open it and see a “cease and desist” letter directing you to stop using their client’s brand (let’s call them Stupid Store).
You say oh #$$@@!!
You begin researching. You start to realize that you have a very similar brand as the Stupid Store. Your heart drops, you don’t know what to do. You call an Intellectual property lawyer.
The lawyer starts researching (and billing) to see if there is any way you can avoid losing your brand, your catchy name, your domain, your logo – your baby. You start thinking and saying “Do I have to start over?” “Will I lose my business?” Will I get sued if I don’t stop using my name, my logo, my website?”
The lawyer informs you that Stupid Store has the name and logo registered with the USPTO. Stupid Store registered the name and logo ten years prior to you starting your business. UGH!!! You begin to think – “Why didn’t I research this first?!” “Why didn’t I seek legal counsel first before going down this road?!” “This is costing me way too much!”
The lawyer recommends avoiding litigation and settling the matter. You don’t have a dog in the fight.
You now have to transfer your domain, your logo, your advertisements, (everything that has your brand name) over to Stupid Store.
You can continue with your business however, but you cannot use the name and logo anymore. When your customers visit your website – it’s down. You quickly start losing your place in the market. Investors start bailing, your employees start searching on Indeed.com. Unfortunately, you start doing the same thing.
So to answer the question, is intellectual property important to small business? Yup.