In the last 2 segments we talked about US Customs, commercial invoices, and country of origin labels required by US law.
Now let’s cover an interesting subject Patents, Trademarks, and Copyrights. I have covered these briefly in a previous blog post but think they deserve mention again for all the new people who may not be familiar with my work.
A Patent in it’s most simple form is a government authority or license conferring a right or title for a set period, especially the sole right to exclude others from making, using, or selling an invention.
A Trademark is a symbol, word, or words legally registered or established by use as representing a company or product.
A Copyright is the exclusive legal right, given to an originator or an assignee to print, publish, perform, film, or record literary, artistic, or musical material, and to authorize others to do the same.
When selling online these are the legal forms of protection you can get to help protect you from imitators, theft of IP, etc.
In the past patents were a common form of protection needed to get investment capital and assume some sort of legal protection in the US and many other countries in the world.
But here is the RUB!!!
The only reason to get a patent any more is to sue people and do what they call defending the patent. But it is not about defense any more. It is about offense. One only needs to look at Austin Meyers from Xplane and his expose of the patent office and it’s incompetence and the patent trolls to see this is no longer about protection but money for attorneys and litigious companies that want to bully small businesses out of existence.
Now a trademark is a good idea for your company logo, and a copyright is good to protect a body of work (like my blog, or one of my up coming books, or past works of art.) so they do not really help protect a persons products they are selling online. And if your on Amazon today with the rash of IP theft and piggy backing Chinese sellers knocking off even patented products we see a coordinated attack on the very protection you think your getting.
So what do we do? Is the question most people are currently asking?
Well unless I was raising capital and had something completely unique, novel, and in a big enough market that suing people was beneficial and necessary to be affordable or profitable I would not patent.
I would look at applying copyrights to photographs of my products, and trademarks to my logos. I would also insure I could prove who my supplier really was, and apply for as much protection and financially feasible. But more than that I would make it as hard as possible to copy my product!
This is where the second part of the RUB is. How to do that? This is an interesting subject as there are as many thoughts on ways to do that as their are people.
Here are a few of mine.
1.) Insure your product has your trademarked logo added to it in a fashion that is as hard to copy as possible.
2.) Do not use generic packaging, at a minimum have your trademarked logo on the packaging.
3.) Do not have the manufacturer do the packaging. Yeah they are the ones who are probably stealing your idea and competing directly with you.
4.) Have your product assembled in the US where laws are in your favor.
5,) Create unique and hard to duplicate bundles. Be thoughtful and do things like bundle a fly swatter with insect spray from two different companies.
6.) Add a personal gift to your shipments that only you can do that will be difficult for competitors to duplicate.
7.) make and keep detailed information on your product that you can use to weed out the fakes.
8.) Add a hidden mark, label, or logo, somewhere on your product that only you know about and do not advertise it.
And so many more. The idea is to make your product harder to copy, so the thieves will go elsewhere.
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