Franchises and other businesses generally do not appreciate it when others adopt confusingly similar names or utilize their goods or services without attribution. They are concerned that the public will be misled to believe that a non-franchised location is the same as a franchised location or that they will not receive compensation for their original works of authorship. Nonprofits are not immune from these concerns. In fact, with the advent of the Internet, even religious institutions are globally policing and enforcing their distinctive names, services and goods, and insisting that others not utilize them without permission.
The protection and licensing of intellectual property of all kinds is best approached both defensively and offensively. A good defense involves due diligence to be sure that you are not infringing a third party's intellectual property and defending infringement actions when they arise. A good offense involves protecting your intellectual property through registration and your own enforcement efforts. The term "intellectual property" is broad to include patents on inventions, but more commonly for religious institutions includes these assets:
Trademarks – These are special names associated with your religious institution or its products and services. Trademarks are words, logos or slogans which are used to identify the source of goods or services.
Copyrights – These are "works of authorship" such as the written or spoken word, music, works of art or computer software. "Originality" is key to protection. Copyrights are owned by the author of the work unless the author is an "employee" who is hired to create the work.
Trade Secrets – These are special formulas for goods, customer and supplier lists or technology known only to a select few in the company or organization. Domain Names – These are the key links to organization Internet sites which are often based on trademarks or company/organization names.
Advertising/Promotion – Sweepstakes, skill contests, raffles, games, rebates, coupons, gift cards, loyalty programs and copy clearance all involve intellectual property issues.
Intellectual property helps religious and commercial institutions alike distinguish themselves and commercialize works of authorship. Counsel can assist you with identifying the intellectual property in need of defensive or offensive support, potential infringements of your own or other's assets, and help you prioritize which strategic steps to take first to advance your mission.