corporate america

Where Business Owners Go Wrong Legally

Where Business Owners Go Wrong Legally

By Ryan Velez

Ticora Davis first learned about intellectual property as an undergrad, working in the sciences. Today, she has taken that knowledge and more into a career as an attorney serving social media influencers, reality TV stars, TEDx speakers, and business coaches. “My clients are cosmic cuties and digital divas,” says Davis. They’re amazing creatives that are bursting with vision, innovation, and passion; however, they’re in need of some serious hand-holding and guidance to avoid making rookie legal mistakes. All of my clients have unique ideas that they cherish, but also [that they] value enough to protect.” Named a Top 40 under 40 Lawyer, Black Enterprise recently caught up with Davis to talk about trademarks and small business mistakes.

For some new business owners, there’s a bit of a question on how quickly you need to trademark. “I believe you should begin the trademark registration process prior to launching your business. Trademark rights are established by “first use” in commerce, meaning the first person to sell goods or services connected to the name has superior rights over those who come after him or her. If you have a great idea and do not plan to launch your business until several months or years down the road, you can still begin the trademark registration process before you’re ready to launch to the public. This allows you to protect your idea and not be in fear that someone else will steal your name. Rihanna’s team did exactly this with Fenty Beauty. She filed her “intent to use” trademark applications 1-1.5 years prior to the launch of Fenty to ensure her rights were secure prior to selling her first Killawatt Highlighter,” Davis shares.

Of course, in the case of bringing on investors or franchising, you need to act even sooner. “It’s a way to communicate that you’re a savvy businessman or woman who knows that your business is important enough to invest in. A federally registered trademark puts you in the driver seat of how your brand shows up online.”

However, Davis points out that would-be business owners mess up in other ways, like trying to use Google as a replacement for a formal trademark clearance search. If you miss another business that has your trademark, they can cancel your filing.

In addition, you need to make sure your legal contracts are strong, no matter who you deal with. “Many creatives share contracts that fail to adequately protect their services or enter into “handshake” deals where they have an oral agreement and no written contract is in place. The problem with sharing contracts is that everyone’s business is unique so it’s best to have a contract that is tailored to fit your business and unique situation.”

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