Intellectual Property Considerations For Online Business Owners, Part 2

By Susan Radde, Assistant General Counsel for True Value Company

If you're a small online business owner and you're working with a service provider to develop new ideas, characters or other "fuzzy" types of concepts along those lines, you need to be very careful about your intellectual property rights.

The key is to make sure that you own all of these concepts and ideas so that the service provider can't then go out and use ideas and concepts that you may have rejected, but are still important to you.

This is why you have to make sure that these things are spelled out, in writing, in any agreement that you have with somebody who's collaborating with you to create your online presence.

Spell out who owns what and what you're going to do with concepts and ideas that are rejected in that process.

Trademarks and Branding

In the United States, the first user of a trademark is the owner-however, everywhere else in the world, the first to file is the owner.  It's important here to make sure that if you are linking or you are using someone else's trademark that you do it in some way that does not imply a sponsorship or association without the other party's approval.  

Your marketing campaign can be stopped through an injunction if you are found to be improperly using someone else's trademark.  To avoid any negative consequences, be sure to consult with a trademark attorney who can help clear your trademarks and domain names and don't rely on the advice of your service provider only.

Susan Radde is currently working as Assistant General Counsel for True Value Company.  Ms. Radde has been in house at True Value since 2000.  At True Value, Ms. Radde handles all commercial and intellectual property matters, including maintaining True Value's extensive trademark portfolio consisting of over 400 US and international registrations.  Prior to joining True Value, Ms. Radde worked in house at Interstate Insurance Group, a former subsidiary of Fireman's Fund.  Ms. Radde started her practice at the law firm of Meagher & Geer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she represented insurance companies in litigation with policyholders.

Ms. Radde obtained her Bachelor of Science in Business from the University of Minnesota in 1988 and her Juris Doctorate *** Laude from William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1991.  In 1992, she obtained a Master of Laws with Merit from the University of London.  Ms. Radde is admitted to practice in Illinois, Minnesota and is a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales.

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