Protecting Your Business: Long-Term Success Begins With Defense

In today’s super-competitive business world it’s becoming emphatically dire for business owners to protect their business and secure their developed ideas, services and products. This is not only protection from a business to business perspective, but in the digital realm of today, safeguarding the business’s brand and voice from damaging consumers and reviews. It’s a constant worry and hassle that all businesses, regardless of the age or maturation, have to deal with and be confronted with at some point or time in their operations. Regardless of what it is that’s affecting your business, having the appropriate legal and business structures will ensure your business value isn’t damaged by an outside factor. Whether having the necessary protection from another competing business in your area (or online) to assuring that damage control is in place for any negative consumer reviews and comments; these are all mandatory cases where business owners have to constantly be ahead of the curve and protecting their businesses.

Here are a few pointers to consider whether you’re safeguarding your business operations, company’s liabilities or even assuring that bad reviews and comments don’t damage your brand beyond repair.

1. Protecting business processes and limiting excessive liabilities with the proper legal documents:

* Start with having the proper legal documents and contracts or agreements in place. This begins with the proper “Employee Contracts and Agreements” on file for every employee, intern, freelancer or aligned consultant of the business entity. This outlines the expectations between the two parties and addresses how the agreement will pan out over time. “Non-Competing Agreements” are another area of protection from workers or employees taking your ideas and incorporating them into their own areas of business. Of course, these Employee agreements can be directly specialized per employee or just a basic underlying agreement. Some additional areas may include: “Ownership of Inventions” (maintains company ownership for those employees who invent or create within their respective roles while employed via the company), “No Authority to Contract” (called an agency provision, defines the employee to employee relationship and not an agency relationship) and Termination, Arbitration and Compensation clauses.

* When or if your business deals with outside consultants and business partnerships (with other companies), having the best aligned partnership agreements and including “Non-disclosure Agreements” (NDA) can/will ensure that not only your business process is being covered, but ensures that no ideas or internal insights on your business seep out through outside hands, mouths, via conference call, memo’s or emails. Consider including “Gag Order” terms within your Non-Disclosure Agreements, if you’re seriously protecting the ‘next big idea’ or that hot “business” consumer good… or maybe it’s just a really powerful product idea. NDA’s can and should be a part of any or all business to business meetings where you’re disclosing any inside knowledge, processes or insights of your company. NDA’s ensure that business partner isn’t just ‘picking your brain’ for innovative ideas to incorporate.

2. Protecting business ideas, creations and inventions:

* Copyrights: are forms of protection for authors “of original work or ownership” within a tangible form of expression. Copyrights can cover the areas of literary, drama, art, music, intellectual property, photos, pictures, graphic designs, drawing and more. Copyright lends it way for licensing and royalty agreements and deals. Note, copyrights don’t cover names, short sayings/text, words or short phrases. This is when you register it as a trademark.

* Trademarks: protect words, names, symbols or other notable devices used in trade to distinguish or denote a specific brand or good from others. Trademarks only protect one from another using your “mark” not from another competing business creating a very similar or same good under a different mark. Trademarks, used in interstate and foreign commerce, are filed through the Patent & Trademark Office.

* Patents: are necessary for inventions, and grant property ownership to the inventor. Handled through the Patent & Trademark Office, patents terms are 20 years from the application date the patent was filed. Patents grants the “right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale or selling” the invention in the US or importing the invention into the US.

3. Protecting the business’ reputation & brand:

* Local Content Management Services/Strategy: Ensures that any information about or related to the business is accurately maintained and distributed across all local and national distribution points or outlets. This can be extended to protect and manage the business online content or verbiage, and may pertain to business listing & data, meta tags, page titles, images, and the actual content on your sites. A local content management system offers accuracy and a universal language to all your online consumers.

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