Legal Mistake #7: Is Your Property Properly Protected?
The three areas of concern have to do with real, personal, and intellectual property.
Do Protect Your Real Property
Real property involves contracts, leases, and deeds, and is generally document driven. It is very formal. Because my dad had a land title business, I grew up recognizing the many problems that can arise around this area. I can manage these problems well, but I have a very healthy respect for it. Real property is unforgiving if it is improperly handled. Business owners need to be very careful in handling their real property and should always seek legal advice.
This goes for leases too. Getting into a bad lease can be a nightmare for a business. A friend of mine just rented a building from a delusional swindler. The roof leaks and the air conditioner does not work. The lease is unclear on who has the responsibility for fixing these. The law is clear that the landlord is responsible, but who wants to stop business and go to the courthouse to fight with a lunatic? Meanwhile, customers are suffering in 85 degree summer heat as they try to shop in an upscale women’s clothing store. My friend is reluctant to “break” the lease because she does not want to end up at the courthouse fighting about who is right. A good lease might have prevented this disaster and made it clear that she is within her rights to leave.
Do Protect Your Personal Property
In contrast, personal property, which is everything from staplers to semi-trucks as long as they are not attached to a building or land, does not necessarily require strict formality unless the items are exceptionally valuable. A business owner’s personal property involves contracts with both vendors and customers. It involves both inventory and the tools of the trade. Managing the flow of inventory is, of course, critical and making sure the contract for the provisions around it are in place are a key component of protecting the company. The tools and equipment of the company also need to be protected with sound contracts, including warranties, whenever they can be obtained.
Do Protect Your Intellectual Property
Intellectual property takes on a whole different aspect because of the government registration aspects. Intellectual property is a specialized area of the law. Many companies, even big sophisticated ones, do not realize the extent of legal protection they can get for their business name, logos, inventions, processes, catchphrases, and the like. Protecting these from other companies or people does not have to be expensive and sometimes involves just a simple registration with the state. We just protected one of our clients by registering his business name.
Another aspect of intellectual property protection that business leaders commonly overlook is getting protection from its employees. Often, if an employee is working for a company and develops an invention, protectable system, or idea, it is unclear who owns it. The company definitely has a claim but it is absolutely preferable to have this locked down rather than just having a claim. Accordingly, all companies should have employees sign an Invention and Non-Disclosure Agreement. Companies should also review significant new marketing or production ventures they launch to ensure they do not infringe on anyone else’s intellectual property.
One of my lawyer friends, who litigated intellectual property cases for forty years, tells the story of a major company in his city that completely re-branded with the logos up on the outside of their buildings, billboards, ads — the whole works. Soon after, they received a Summons to appear in Federal Court in Chicago for trademark infringement. Down came the signs. Whether it’s real, personal or intellectual, our clients’ property is safe with us. Not only do we protect what they own, we position them to protect the many great things and ideas coming their way. Contact us today to schedule a free case assessment and start getting the protection you deserve.