copyright, patent, trademark

iPscaling?

How did iPscaling come about? 

Years ago, I started by teaching live intellectual property training to startup entrepreneurs in person in small meeting rooms and classrooms all across the Tampa Bay region.?

My idea was to reach new startups before they made the common mistakes that I was seeing in my legal practice.??? Companies were being sued by larger competitors when they could least afford to defend a lawsuit. Business owners were putting the rights to iP in their own name, instead of the company name, or worse… neglecting to own the rights entirely … with all the problems and costs that you might be able to imagine. If you don’t own the iP, then somebody else does.

These classes were very effective for groups of 10 – 20 business owners, but hour-long classes would stretch into two hours with questions.

Then, I did the math. About 400,000 new businesses register with the Secretary of State’s office in Florida every year. I would have to give 20,000 classes a year just to reach all of the new business owners filing LLC and corporate registrations in Florida. But wait. That would mean 20,000 classes on copyright, plus and equal number on trademarks, plus an equal number on trade secrets… Well, you get the picture, right? I needed to find a way to scale… I had to listen to my own advice.

So, I started experimenting with technology as a way of reaching more business owners. It wasn’t easy. Back when I started, the technology for interactive teaching didn’t exist or was super clunky. Also, the idea was to reach business owners BEFORE they made mistakes, but passive videos on Youtube don’t work. There’s no accountability. No follow through. Busy business owners need encouragement to not only learn what they should do but also to get it done right.

Most business owners wanted me to do it for them, but overhead of a law firm is high. Many business owners either went without or had to save up money to pay even my firm’s reasonable flat fees, which add up fast. It also meant that I would never achieve my goal, because my firm can’t represent hundreds of thousands of clients. There are only 140 Florida Bar certified intellectual property attorneys in my state, last time I checked. Many of those are litigators and only represent clients AFTER the damage is done.

So, I started online training, the IP Workshop, which eventually was rebranded as iPmasterclass. What I realized is that business owners failed to grasp a fundamental concept, which was holding them back. Intellectual Property includes trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets and patents, but intellectual property does not add value to a business. It’s a cost to a business. What does add value?

Intangibles.

Intangibles are the things you can’t see and can’t touch that intellectual property protects. It’s the good will in your brand, the value created from creative works that are exclusively yours, the competitive advantage from keeping your know-how, processes and specialized knowledge secret, the ability to prevent others without a license from using or selling your inventions, and much much more…

If you’re not understanding this right now, you’re not alone. I went back and forth with one very bright client to way to long trying to explain the difference between “good will” in a brand and the brand/trademark itself. Legally and financially they are two different concepts. A trademark assignment must transfer both the trademark and the associated good will. Otherwise, the assignment is invalid.

It’s things like this that can drive clients crazy.

Then, I had a thought. What if I could make it easy to understand the difference between “intangible” property or “iP” and intellectual property or IP? It took me awhile to find the right metaphor: the Concertina principle. But this took root, and business owners understood. It’s the iP that gives a business its competitive advantages, building value in the business. The IP merely helps to own and protect it, which allows the owner to grow its value without undue fear of loss. This idea gave birth to the “own protect grow” 3-step process, and iP scaling or “iPscaling” was born.

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trademark

Why Distinctiveness?

Every brand starts out at zero. It’s not worth anything until customers start to associate your brand with your company in their brains. Getting those synapses to fire in the right way when your customer hears your brand name is called “good will” by intellectual property attorneys and accountants.

If you’re building brand value, then you’ll want to make sure that your customers can remember your brand. You need at least two things for that. The brand should be “sticky”, meaning memorable for some reason, and it should be distinctive, meaning its not easily confused with somebody else’s brand. I think of SPANX as an example of a brand that is both sticky and distinctive.

If your brand is sticky but not distinctive, you’re always going to have difficulty with confusion about whether the product or service is offered by you or that other similar brand. And this confusion can lead to long and expensive trademark lawsuits, when one of the two brands gets serious about defending its trademarks. I’m thinking of all the moose litigation initiated by Moosehead Breweries as an example of attempting to defend a sticky, but not particularly distinctive, brand for beer.

So, pick a brand that’s distinctive. It’s much easier to make a distinctive brand sticky than it is to make a sticky brand distinctive. But we’ll save that for another post.

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