Small Business Intellectual Property - Free Enterprise

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Being an entrepreneur or running a small business means that you have to wear many hats. One of the most important is the marketing and advertising hat. Making sure your potential customers know that you exist and know what you do is essential for any business that wants to survive.

So after you've done your research on how to reach your target market and you've selected the type of advertisement you want to run (print, internet, radio, etc.), you have to design your advertisement's content. Will you just let people know you exist? Are you going to offer a special promotion? Or, are you going to tell everyone why your competition's product is inferior? Regardless of what you say, you should make sure you know the limitations on what you can and can't say in advertising.

Below are 5 frequently asked questions from small business owners about advertising.

You founded your company around one great idea, and you want to protect it. Or that one great idea has led to a lot more great ideas and you need to protect those. And if your great idea is a new invention, product, or process, you're probably going to need a patent to protect it.

Unfortunately, patent law can be especially confusing, even for the experts. Here are five questions small businesses face when it comes to patents, and where you can find answers:

There's not much upon which nearly all business owners agree, but they are fairly unified in denouncing patent trolls. You know, a shadowy company that's only in the business of litigation, snapping up patents on the cheap and, instead of producing something new or putting them to good use, are content with suing the pants off anyone making a similar product or using a similar technology.

And patent trolls aren't just a minor nuisance -- they can bankrupt startups and small businesses, and stifle innovation before it can get started. While several anti-troll statutes have stalled in Congress, the Federal Trade Commission hopes that new proposals will reduce nuisance infringement litigation. But will it work?

The American people have the right to be free from unreasonable searches. It's a constitutional right that stems from the Fourth Amendment that is meant to protect the people from the government. Microsoft has been fighting since April to stop the government from searching users' cloud storage without providing notice to the searched user. In the most recent filing, Microsoft has found unusual allies in not only Google and Apple, but also Amazon, BP, Fox News, Delta, the EFF, and even the US Chamber of Commerce.

Basically, the issue focuses on the government's ability to obtain not just a search warrant to search through a user's files stored on the cloud, but also a gag order which prevents the company providing the cloud storage from notifying the user that the search will occur or has occurred.

In today's modern era of the internet and energy drinks, small businesses come in all shapes, forms, and types of tangibility. Businesses today can exist solely in the digital sphere, selling digital products that people only use in digital worlds. Businesses that don't have a presence in the digital world want in. But before businesses hire that pricey developer to start developing, an Invention Assignment Agreement should be signed.

Developing code is not just a science, it's an art. Like photographers, developers and coders are the copyright holders and owners of their code. So before your business hires on that coder to build the next revolutionary Thneed, make sure you know who owns what from the outset.

Coaches aren't just for athletes anymore. Many of us are turning to non-professional mentors or "life coaches" for help in finding direction, organization, and drive, and entrepreneurs and small business owners are no different.

Enter the online business coach. While it might seem like your small business could use the same sort of perspective and guidance as you do, there are some risks associated with business coaches, especially online.

Small businesses are always going to try and take advantage of world sporting events to boost their revenue or recognition. And the entities that put on those events will always try and protect their trademarks, allowing only official sponsors to use certain terms and images.

Just like FIFA with the World Cup, and the NFL with the Super Bowl, the United States Olympic Committee is extremely protective over the use of Olympic trademarks and terminology. Too protective? The USOC recently sent a letter warning businesses to "not create social media posts that are Olympic themed, that feature Olympic trademarks, that contain Games imagery or congratulate Olympic performance unless you are an official sponsor as specified in the Social Media Section." So how can your small business tweet and share the Games without breaking the law?

Pokemon Go is a legitimate sensation. The game became so popular so quickly, players were driving their cars into trees and getting arrested while playing. And any small business owner's eyes will turn into dollar signs when she hears that a platform has more daily users than Twitter.

So how can your small business break into the Pokemon Go market without breaking the law? Here's what you need to know.

Small business owners are protective of their brand. And there is the natural tendency to lash out at anything -- fake online reviews, defamatory comments, or intellectual property theft -- that threatens the integrity of that brand. Heck, even Donald Trump (or more accurately, especially Donald Trump) goes after those he thinks might harm his image.

But sometimes those efforts can backfire, as The Donald himself demonstrated last week, via an ill-advised and subsequently eviscerated cease and desist letter. Let this letter be a lesson to entrepreneurs and small business owner about the limits of defending the brand.

Patent Basics for Entrepreneurs

Every entrepreneur needs to know something about patents, lest you miss an opportunity to invest in a lucrative new invention. Or worse, fail to patent yours as promptly as possible.

Patents are part of a system for organizing intellectual property. They protect inventions, so you need more than just an idea to be granted a patent and applying can be an arduous process. Still, wait too long and someone may beat you to the punch. So let’s get started.