Some small business owners simply hope to open their own storefront. As long as they make enough to live on, that would be enough. While that’s fine for many, other entrepreneurs — perhaps not unlike yourself — dream of growing their business: opening multiple branches and even creating a national or international franchise. This exciting goal takes plenty of hard work, but it also takes the forethought to protect your intellectual property in order to scale your business. Here are some ways you can protect your ability to franchise in the future:
Make Sure Your IP Is Adequately Protected
In order to have a registered and defendable trademark, your brand must be unique and recognizable. This may be easy enough to do at the local level, but the wider your business grows, the more likelihood that it might be confused with another business or that competition may encroach on it.
Before you franchise your business, you want to make sure that all of your IP is adequately protected. The name of your business, your logo, any slogans or promotional material should be protected under trademark or copyright. If you have a unique and invented product, make sure that you’ve patented it.
Develop a Plan For Your Trade Secrets
It’s fairly easy for a small family business to protect their trade secrets. If the secret family recipe or the unique manufacturing process gets out, it wouldn’t take much work to trace the source. But as your business grows into a franchise, you can’t personally interact with every person who might need your trade secrets. You will need to make a plan to make sure these secrets don’t get out. At what level of management should someone have access to trade secrets? And how can you be sure the trade secret stays secret?
The most common way to protect trade secrets is through a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). It’s a written agreement that the employee or business partner would sign before being granted access to the trade secret, agreeing to confidentiality. If they later go on to become your competition and utilize your trade secret, you will have a written contract that can be shown in court, proving that they are in default.
Hire an Intellectual Property Attorney
An intellectual property attorney can do more than simply help you research and register your trademarks and copyrights. They can help to draft NDAs and put other protective measures in place to ensure that you will be able to franchise your business. They can also monitor for potential copyright, trademark, or patent infringement so that you can take action if need be. Whatever intellectual property needs you may have, your intellectual property attorney will be there to support you. It adds security and confidence as you move towards franchising.
Garcia-Zamor has over two decades of experience in the field of intellectual property law. We can help you protect your IP as a small business, as well as protecting your ability to franchise or open up more branches going forward. Contact us today for more information or to set up a consultation.