For New, aspiring or current Black business owners, be careful who you tell you dreams too ! protect yourself and your company through Patents, ndas, and trademarks!
Did you know that throughout our history, we have been innovative ! However, we were not always allowed to take credit for our brilliance.
Shontavia Johnson, a lawyer and professor of Intellectual Property Law at Drake University, wrote an eye-opening piece on the history of African American slaves being denied (or having outright stolen), patents for their inventions.
"Johnson writes, “One group of prolific innovators, however, has been largely ignored by history: black inventors born or forced into American slavery. Though U.S. patent law was created with color-blind language to foster innovation, the patent system consistently excluded these inventors from recognition.”
She explains that the patent system–which started officially in 1787–was not open to African Americans born into slavery as they weren’t considered citizens. " (Source: Blackenterprise )
in this day, we are still seeing this happen. from Big brands taking concepts from smaller brands to Those with a stronger social media presence claiming ideas as their own that they originally got from a smaller content creators. SO the question is. How exactly do we protect ourselves? As someone with big ideas , I've pondered this myself and have researched many ways to keep my intellectual property safe.
Before we get into all the ways to protect yourself remember, you're never going to get around paying for an investment, while some of these methods are open to DIY, there is a certain peace, safety and intelligence around hiring someone who is an expert in their field to ensure everything is done correctly and legally! Always research and vet your service providers!
here is what I found, links provided for sources and additional research.
Trademarks not only help distinguish products within the legal and business systems—but just as significantly—with consumers. They are used to identify and protect words and design elements that identify the source, owner, or developer of a product or service. They can be corporate logos, slogans, bands, or the brand name of a product. Similar to a trademark, a service mark identifies and distinguishes the source of a service rather than a product, and the term trademark is often used to refer to both trademarks and service marks.
How to Obtain: Trademarks are available at the state and national level and the cost varies. You can search your state gov site or visit USPTO to learn more. hiring a trademark lawyer is also a great fit to get this done ! (Please search for Black Trademark Lawyers, They exist !)
In principle, the patent owner has the exclusive right to prevent or stop others from commercially exploiting the patented invention. In other words, patent protection means that the invention cannot be commercially made, used, distributed, imported or sold by others without the patent owner's consent.
How to Obtain: Patents are available at USPTO , Visit to learn more however hiring a trademark lawyer is also a great Idea !
Non disclosure agreements or NDA: $-$$
Non-disclosure agreements are common for businesses entering into negotiations with other businesses. They allow the parties to share sensitive information without fear that it will end up in the hands of competitors. In this case, it may be called a mutual non-disclosure agreement.
How to Obtain: I use LawDepot for all my contracts. Here is a sample NDA. Before you discuss new ideas with service providers you can ask them to sign your NDA before the conversation is made. Make sure the signed copy is stored in a safe place ! I use Docusign and Adobe Sign for all my electronic contracts.
It's important to remain informed and resourceful ! I hope this helps innovators everywhere get ahead and protect your multi million dollar ideas !
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