Clearing the Pathway for Digital Marketing and Branding

by Kelli Ovies

You will be hard pressed to find a company today that doesn’t use some form of digital marketing. Social media has changed the way we do business and in a lot of cases has made advertising and connecting with clients easier and more personal. And while there are many benefits to using social media in your business, there also can be some dangers when it comes to protecting the business’ intellectual property and making sure the business doesn’t inadvertently infringe a third party’s rights. Fortunately, there are a few steps that a business owner can take early on to reduce the risks inherent in digital marketing. 

Before starting your company, you probably came up with a few ideas about what your branding is going to look like. Brainstorming names, logos, and taglines can be great fun, but before you get too attached to them it’s best to make sure you can use and register them. While business owners can (and should) do some of this legwork on their own by searching the Patent and Trademark Office records and internet uses, having a professional legal team on your side to make sure that your ideas are original and non-infringing before you start using them is important and can help ease some of the stress of starting a new business. An experienced trademark attorney can help develop and execute a search strategy that will identify marks that might not seem problematic in real world usage but nevertheless will encounter issues at the Patent and Trademark Office.

Once you have settled on your key trademarks and other elements of your branding, it’s important to make sure that your team is helping you build goodwill through presenting a consistent story to consumers. Many businesses have marketing teams, whether in-house or outsourced, who help with digital marketing. Before handing over the reins, the company should create its own social media accounts so that there is no question as to who owns them. It also should have policies in place regarding what company-related content its employees and independent contractors can post to ensure that what is featured on social media accounts is consistent and reflective of the business’ mission and does not infringe anyone else’s intellectual property rights. Additionally, a business should have its employees and independent contractors sign agreements in which they assign to the business ownership of any content they create for and post on the company’s social media accounts, such as photographs, and agree to treat the company’s social media marketing strategy as a trade secret. 

Clearing your proposed trademarks and creating social media guidelines and agreements for your team is a great way to keep things in check internally, but, unfortunately, there are plenty of outside threats to your brand and other intellectual property. Because the internet is vast and has no borders and anything posted can spread quickly, there inevitably will be times when you will find that your intellectual property is being infringed. And while your first instinct might be to treat everything as an emergency, the best thing to do is prioritize what needs your attention. Working with your legal team early on to outline enforcement protocol can keep you from spending time and money on minor issues and help you focus on the real threats. 

At Forrest Firm, we are well versed in helping startups, entrepreneurs, and established businesses protect their assets, and would be happy to meet with you to discuss your business’ trademarks, social media policy, and enforcement strategy. 

Want more information about our intellectual property services? Contact Kelli Ovies at kelli.ovies@forrestfirm.com or Lyle Gravatt at lyle.gravatt@forrestfirm.com.