Experts Weigh In: IP Horror Stories

How to Deal With Work Related StressProtecting your intellectual property is so important. Your name, logo, and business creations tell your customers who you are. So making sure that no one can steal your company’s brand is one of the first steps you should make when starting a business. We asked some of our small business experts if they had any IP horror stories from when they were first starting out. Here’s what they had to say…  Continue reading

Business Basics: Business Website

Your business needs a website – end of story. In 2014, only 53% of small business had an active website, and yet 97% of consumers reported searching online for products or services. That discrepancy is absolutely insane! The most commonly given reason for not having a website is that the business doesn’t need one which is far from true: a small business without a website will fail to reach a huge part of its website So if you don’t already have one, you need to start building a business website now. We can’t tell you what to put on that site, but we can help you plan it out by covering four things your site should have.

Domain Name

This one is pretty obvious – you need a domain name if you’re going to build a site. Anyone without a site is already late to the game, but as long as your business’s name isn’t too common – i.e. John Smith Flowers or Jane Smith Tires – you should be able to grab a domain name that’s fairly close to your DBA name. However, if you’re too late and your desired domain is taken, you can choose a domain that doesn’t directly match your ‘Doing Business As’ name. You just need to remember that it’s now your job to make it clear what business your customers are dealing with, so make sure your DBA name is clearly seen on your site.

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Business Basics: Trade Dress

This week we thought it’d be a good idea to look at one of the most important parts of a product’s branding, its trade dress. You are affected by trade dress every single day, whether you realize it or not. If we describe a white coffee cup with a green circle on it, you’ll know it’s from Starbucks. Or if we show you a bag with a red square and yellow arches, you’ll think McDonalds. Essentially, trade dress is the various characteristics that make up a product’s or package’s appearance. But how do you protect your own trade dress? And does building a brand mean marrying that packaging?

Trade Dress

We bet you still know what company this is.

Why should you build trade dress recognition?
Because your company needs a way to immediately distinguish itself. Your brand embodies all of the goodwill and trust you’ve built into your company, and something as simple as a color, font, or even the shape of your product’s box can evoke all of those feelings within whatever customer is looking at your product. That’s why you want your trade dress to be consistent over all of your properties. Your logo, signage, site, and product packaging should all be built around some common element that inextricably ties your business with your product or service.

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Business Basics – Copyrights

Protecting your intellectual property is a vital part of protecting your business. Your intellectual property will essentially define your brand – the very element of your business that consumers associate with all of the goodwill you’ve built into your business. We’ve already talked about trademarks, but this week we decided to look at the other half of intellectual property protection; the copyright. So what exactly is a copyright? And what does registering a copyright even protect?

Copyright Symbol

Copyright Symbol

What is a copyright?

Copyright protection actually dates all the way back to the advent of the printing press. After its invention, it was much easier to copy and sell books. But the printing press also meant that rebellious literature could also be produced much more quickly. This, combined with the threat to the livelihood of the creators of the works being printed, meant the government began to license shops with the right to print copy – and thus the copyright was born. As the decades passed copyright protection became more about protecting the artist, and less about stifling rebellious text, and today we continue to use copyright protections to enforce the rights creators have to their work.

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R is for Registered Trademark and Copyright

This week’s letter-based-topic might seem like a stretch since, really, the subjects are trademarks and copyrights – neither of which begin with an r. But putting registered in front of those terms is not just a cop-out that a lazy writer has used to fit with a weekly theme. There are actually very important distinctions between registered and unregistered intellectual properties.

Technically, you do not have to register trademarked or copyrighted property. An unregistered trademark simply needs the little  symbol next to it and, voilà, the property is unofficially trademarked. You can even establish a proprietary right to the mark by using it in the market.

The same general principle is also applicable to copyrights. When the United States signed onto the Berne Convention in the late 80′s, it effectively agreed to see an author copyrighting his or her work as an automatic right. That means that, thanks to the Berne Convention, no registration is required to copyright something in the United States.
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B is for Branding

For the second installment of our ABC’s of Business here at the MyCorp Blog. B gave us a bit of trouble – we knew we couldn’t lapse into the overtly lazy choice and just use “Business” as our B word, but we soon realized that most of the B’s we could use involve Business in some way. Business financing, Business to Business Sales, Bring Your Own Business (the new BYOB) … and while we love busy businesses, we just couldn’t be seen using the tell-tale B word for this installment. In what must have been one of the weakest eureka moments in the history of blogging, we figured out an important B that DIDN’T involve the word Business – Branding. So, for this week at least, B is for Branding. Continue reading

Guest Post: What Sorts of Copyright Laws Apply to Music in the Workplace?

At one time, when the terms “public,” “music” and “business” were combined, it meant one of three things: Muzak, a jukebox or a live musical performance. Now we’re surrounded by all kinds of music in public venues each and every day. Public music is so ubiquitous that the relative silence of a library is almost shocking in comparison. With Spotify and Pandora on hand constantly, we’re been conditioned to go through life with a perpetual playlist streaming in from our iPods. When planning the ambience for your establishment, you’ll probably be busy thinking of what type of music would work best for your customers – such as sitar music in a spa or chill beats in an urban café – and price shopping for speakers that provide smooth sound. But before you purchase a speaker system, take a step back and think about where that music is going to come from and the kinds of copyright laws you need to abide by to play these songs. Continue reading

Does Pinterest Have A Future?

Pinterest has received quite a bit of positive attention, mainly due to its filling of the niche demographic of younger women, but is it destined for social media greatness, or will it fizzle and be sent to the same grave that MySpace and Google+ have been relegated to?

In the hopes of answering these questions, Social Media Today is hosting a webinar to discuss how Pinterest made such a splash, how it will mesh with other social media juggernauts, and what the future of the new kid on the block will hold. Our very own CEO Deborah Sweeney will appear on the panel to give her expertise regarding the legal concerns of the service. Mrs. Sweeney has also written for Social Media Today on the copyright woes Pinterest may soon face.

The webinar will be held tomorrow, March 13th starting at 12:00pm EST/9:00am PST. You have to register to attend, which you can do here, but the webinar is completely free for anyone interested.