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tv   Your Business  MSNBC  August 20, 2011 5:30am-6:00am EDT

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designer and entrepreneur being successful. small businesses are revitalizing the economy. american express open is here to help. that's why we are proud to present "your business" on
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msnbc. hi there, everyone. i'm j.j. ramberg and welcome to "your business", where we give you tips and advice to help your business grow. a stomach churning roller coaster week on wall street coupled with serious concerns about the future of the economy has small business owners on edge. the political fight over the debt ceiling plus a lack of consumer spending caused the national federation of independent business optimism index to fall in july. and the majority don't see things improving oaf the next six months. joining us now is the chief economist for the nfib. great to see you. >> always a pleasure to be with you. >> just a couple months ago i remember you were here. it's so good to talk to you. you have good news for the first
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time in years. now you're back again with not so good news. >> since then, of course, we're drifted lower in optimism. i guess if you're asking yourself what happened in july or what happened in june or what happened in may or april what would make you more optimistic about the course of the economy, you'd say nothing. it looked like we were going to make a run for 100 at least in the index. now we're back below 90. clearly a recession level reading. >> if you look at the chart the last time you see a big dip like that it's early '80s. >> that was the worst recession since the depression until we had the last one. it's all been revised downward. it was worse than we thought it was going to be. here we go. we're trying to climb our way out of this canyon. but things going forward just don't look very good. consumers are depressed. sales aren't good. one in four say weak sales are
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their top business problem. nobody wants to borrow money. there's no reason to boar remoney. >> is it predictive for the future? >> oh, sure. it's really a pretty good index of where things are going to go. small businesses ploy 2/3 of public workforce. if we're not going to make job outings, it's going to show up in the gdp numbers. you can think of our half not growing and big business doing pretty well with exporting and manufacturing. the small business sector is just not in gear. >> i want to invite our panelists. we have a small business attorney, columnist. and jen hill is an attorney which she represents emerging growth companies.
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thanks for joining us. you work with a lot of new businesses. >> i am seeing that companies are more hesitant. it looks at sector. if you look at the technology industry, companies are spending money. but the ways have shifted ten years ago. it costs less money to roll out a product and to test your market faster and use that feed back in order to develop your product further. we're seeing hesitation in many traditional businesses and based on location. you look at sun belt there's not a lot of retail going on. not a lot of ancillary businesses attached to the housing market. you're seeing places where the economy is harder hit with jobs and housing and that's transcending into the small businesses there. >> how do you see people dealing with the uncertainty? >> i agree with jen. i work with businesses that don't have hordes of cash that they're just holding on to.
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their margins are stretched very thin and they're spending their time now looking very carefully and who's their client, their target market and how can they seven them better by helping to reduce their bottom line. >> phil, what do you do with this information? you see this index, it's depressing. it should be called the pessimism index. as a small business person who do you do with that information? >> i do agree with the ladies that the second torl differences are really pretty large. a million housing starts sho short of what we would be on demographics. think of the jobs that we don't have. the loans that we don't make for construction. we do find that the manufacturing firms are very happy and the ones involved in agriculture. those are two sectors that are doing well. if you're a small manufacturer in the supply chain for an auto producer or caterpillar you're doing very well. in you're in the housing
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industry, it's terrible. if you're in nonprofessional services or financial services life is bad. we do have big differences there. >> it's so great to check in with you. i am sure we will see you soon. >> thanks. surviving in this uncertain economy has been a constant challenge for so many entrepreneurs. one way small business owners can safeguard their ideas is to protect their intellectual property, a patent, trademark or copyright. today's show is dedicated to demystifying this topic. lolita is no strange tore the word of copyright designs. herred a mice is to copyright everything or risk someone else stealing the idea. >> i was elated. i think i jumped on my bed. i didn't even know -- i knew it was protecting my design and my art. but i just felt so special.
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it still feels special when i get those certificates in the mail. >> lolita filed her first copyright at just 12 years old for a cartoon character she called doodle bug. she grew up learning firsthand the value of protecting intellectual property. i come from a long line of tinkers. probably the most famous one is the inventor of the reaper. as soon as he got his patent people tried to copy what he was doing. i grew up with the stories that you need to protect your idea. >> 20 years after filing her first copyright, lolita was inspired to paint on a martini glass after "sex and the city" made the cosmopolitan famous. >> i started showing it to friends and stuff. some of my friends were like oh my gosh, can you paint me ten of those. >> lolita copyrighted the design
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for that very first painted glass as well as every single one she's created since. almost 700 copyrights later, she knows better than anyone how simple the process really is. >> you can do it online for $35 per copyright. all you have to do is attach an image, a written work to it. it's a matter of filling out your name and address and sending it in with the photo of whatever it is. and then usually between one and four weeks you get a certificate back in the mail. it's very simple. >> and if anyone does copy your work, you can file suit and win up to $30,000 in the court finds them infringing on your copy wright. >> so copy wright is only one of the marks that i use. trademarks are even more important sometimes. for instance, my brand name, lolita is trademarked. a trademark protects logos, brand names, slogans, love my
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martini, i have that slogan trademarked. you have to pick and choose your trade mark marks carefully. if you name your company something, that's a gd thing to trademark because that's your identity. >> as dmnd for her product grew, lo low ta soon realized it wasn't possible for her to hand paint all of the glasses herself anymore. >> every broken glass. every 2:00 a.m. frazzled, oh my gosh, i can't do this anymore. i did it for four years on my own. i joous knew that i wanted more people tone joy my designs the only way to make that happen it wasn't going to be on my own. >> in order to scale her business, she would have to find someone in interesting in licensing her design. removing lolita from the tedious task of manufacturing and delivering the items.
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>> i wouldn't be attractive to a licensee if yoif my i.p. protected. it would put them at risk out there selling my product if i didn't have the copyrights on my designs. you need to copyright everything and you need to trademark any of your identities. >> lolita has a host of imitators. i know that there's been programs that i've seen in major retailers that have been shut down overnight because they didn't realize they were buying an absolute copyright infringement. >> when lolita met ray at santa barbara design studio, her dream of finding a licensing partner came true. >> it's great for the artist. they can focus on doing what they do best, which is design work. they're responsible for permitting us to use designs that they already created or
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create designs that they have a concept for that we've discussed. it's our responsibility to take their designs, get manufacturered. market them and distribute them. four times a year they get a check for the percentage of the sales, whatever the royalty rate is. it's a way to supercharge their sales. it's a way for us to to find someone with a proven concept. >> a product line that has expanded to everything from stationary to pajamas and jewelry to towels. lolita's brand is stronger and more recognizable than ever. and thanks to ray, with products in major retailers like macy's and hallmark, lindsay lohan ta more than ever is policing the brand copy cats. >> i probably send out three or four cease and desist letters to copyright infringers.
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>> not every entrepreneur is as copyright savvy. in fact, for many people knowing the difference between a patent, copyright and trademark can be con dpuzing. this week we're introducing a new segment we are calling faq, frequently asked questions. joining us today is lewis li. he's a patent attorney and co-founder of li and haze. so great to see you. >> thank you for having me on your show. >> we get this question all of the time. if you could just explain to us, quickly in layman's terms, what's the difference?
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>> new concepts and ideas, machines, and drugs. copyrights protect work, in books or art. >> would there ever be a time when you would need to get both for a particular thing or they cover different parts of your business? >> no. that's a great question. they do overlap. you can take an example where you can get a patent on a particular product and have it start to build out your brand and part of your whole marketing slogan. a company does a great job of that is apple. think of the ipod franchise. the ipod is something that apple has chosen to get patents covering as well as design patents, trademarks and copyright protection to protect that franchise. >> got it. do you need an attorney to do this. >> >> you can do this yourself, it's typically better to engage a professional.
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you're dealing with intellectual property it's tough to define the bounds of that property. it's probably best to ebb gauge an experienced professional who can draft those claims for you to get a well defined asset. trademark it's best to engage a professional. they can help define the types of goods you want to protect. copyrights are a little more straight forward. a lot of times they vest in their owner as soon as they're created. the registration process with the federal government is a fairly simple process which just allows you to fill out some paperwork. >> as we just saw in the piece that we showed. how much does this cost? a patent for my company and it's a long, expensive process. >> it sure can be. patents range in value. they're very inexpensive,
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additional patents. if your a new business and a new company, you're putting in foundational ideas. those tend to be more expensive. and those can be quite expensive. it gets more expensive if you want to file them around the world. >> what about the trademark? >> trademarks are less expensive. eyou're looking at a time to file that with the patent and trademark office. the process is simpler and quicker. it's not as long to create the documents. it's a much cheaper proposition. cheaper, can you give me a range? >> usually about 800 to $1200 to get the trademark on file. >> copyrights? >> typically people can do that on their own. it's not very difficult at all. >> thank you very much for enlightning us. i think maybe you brought up some more questions that other
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people had. >> there's more than one way to protect your intellectual property. here's five ideas on how to do it. >> invest in legal counsel. while it's not cheap, they can help you decide whether or not to file for a patent, trademark or copyright. do your research. even though it's advisable to leave the big decisions to an attorney, it's smart to read up on. p. rights yourself. use don disclosure agreements. make sure that anyone you share information with -- and be patient. realize that it takes time to get a patent or obtain a copyright or trademark. in the meantime, continue to
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build and grow your idea under the radar. >> still to come on our special look at protecting your intellect clal property. we're talk about the pros and cons of going after someone that violates your copyright. this entrepreneur has over 100 patents. many have turned trash into cash. this is my band from the 80's, looker. hair and mascara, a lethal combo. i'm jon haber of alto music. my business is all about getting music into people's hands. and the plum card from american express open helps me do that. you name it, i can buy it. and the savings that we get from the early pay discount has given us money to reinvest back into our business and help quadruple our floor space. how can the plum card's trade terms get your business booming? booming is putting more music in more people's hands.
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kwlr. getting a pat ept may be time consuming and expensive. but it could be important in order to protect your business. we paid a visit to a california innovator who has mastered the patent process and is helping the environment all while watching his profits take off. spencer brown knows something about patents. >> i've talken bottle caps and make zip ties. i've taken aluminum cans and make dollies. and i've done the crocodile clip. i've taken bleach bottles and make boxes. i did a medical device. >> a self-described inventor he's designed nearly 150 products. today brown is focused on a company he founded in 2005.
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rent a green box is an ecofriendly moving company. >> we rent boxes made from recycled plastic trash and we sell the packing material to the moving industry. >> it's made from trash. >> he's invented 11 products for the company and has president ents on them. he came up with the idea when he was moving offices. >> i spent $800 on cardboard. why are we spending this? i saw the plastic bottles at the landfill, why don't we take this plastic and reinvent a better box. >> he developed a process to turn household detergent bottles into box. as soon as he came up with a design, he started the patent process. >> you can't patent a box. you can patent an atrarkt. so what we did is we pat ended the plastic that the box is made from. >> brown said it's not easy. patenting something takes a lot
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of time and money. >> it was a tremendous alt of work. >> you need an expert? >> absolutely. at this level, you have to have a patent attorney who is excellent in their field. i would recommend going to three to five and interviewing them. >> the patent office estimates 38 month for the the average issue. >> this attorney says it can cost thousands just to get the application on file. >> you have to have a good feeling that what you're seeking to protect is worth it. if you're looking to protect something with a $5,000 upside, it may not be a worthwhile investment. >> most people they have the idea, they have a patent and they think they've won the lottery. >> brown has learned this the hard way. he lost millions patenting and then trying to market a new kind of greeting card. >> this was a great idea.
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we had patented the process. the ink related to light. we thought we had invented a new line of glowing greeting cards. come to find out this was a huge failure. >> so now he doesn't try and patent everything that he invents. like this zip tie, for example. >> explain to me how you decided not to patent this? >> it's just not worth it. you're only selling these, i think they're less than a penny a piece. it's not worth it. i can expense that. >> brown says if you want to sell your invention to a big company you'll have a much better chance if the idea is patented. >> the corporations must have a protected right. they don't want to have an idea. you need to have ownership of that idea. that's what they're buying. >> he says when it comes to thinks the inventor will mark themselves, a patent doesn't provide much protection. >> it didn't guarantee anything. you have the rights to produce something. but the reality is i can
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circumvent any patent. show it to me. i'm rework it and retool it. >> it's time now to answer some of your business questions with a focus today on our theme of patents, copy wrights and trademarks. the first one is about the cost of a patent for your idea. >> what is the most cost effective way to patent your new invention? >> i think the answer is there is none. >> it's a very expensive process. it's one that you should consult with an attorney with. that's people's first hesitation part of the expense depends if you need a patent in the first place. one of the things i guide entrepreneurs to do. is to go to the sites that teach you how to do things online that will give you some education and help you think will you the process so when you do meet with an attorney. you're really prepared for
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questions and you and the attorney can figure out when the timing for a patent is right and how to be a proactive client. >> how much does it cost about? it's thousands ap thousands of dollars. >> in terms of the attorneys fees, one of the things that people can do is possibly work with a patent agent. patent agents have technical backgrounds the way patent attorneys do, except they're not licensed to practice law. they are licensed by the patent bar. as jennifer mentioned i recommend that you speak with both to get a sense of what you're getting yourself into. >> i think you're right to education yourself before talking to these people. remember that you guys charge. when you eliminate some of those hours you're paying less. >> i recommend through the u.s. patent and trademark office has their own website and they're going to find out all the
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information. >> next move to the next question. this is about the easiest way to protect your ideas. >> the question i have is there's a legal reference that supports the idea that i can protect my intellectual property by placing the trademark sign versus registering the actual property, is that correct? >> it's funny. i've heard this answer a few times. can you put it up there without getting a trademark. >> you can, but it doesn't mean that it's federally registered. that r with the circle is what you get when you've filed an application. the tm puts everybody on notice that you think you happen to have rights in your more mark. it's a defensive move. the next step to protecting them is filing. you do generally have some common law rights. >> something else to consider if you done go through the registration process and somebody infringes on your mark there are advantages that you're
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going to have such as no attorney fees and statutory damage ifs you win an infringement suit. is it wort somebody doing this? i'm not gathering to just put the tm? >> it really is. the attorney fees is a bigger cost, but the application itself is not that much. and for businesses that are expanding across the u.s., almost every small business has to be on the internet at some point, you have to protect it. the benefit that you get from having the protection is worth is perfect. >> that's a good first step. >> we have a question from robert, how do i know when it's worth it to go after someone who's violating my copyright? >> this is my favorite question. we talk a loot about should i protect my property. it's only good to protect if you have the means to go after somebody? >> i think there are three factors to consider. what's the size of your bank account. the copyright to you want to enforce, have you registered it
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with the copyright office. and how valuable is that particular copyright to the scope of your business. if it's article that you put online and it's not that valuable. it may not be that valuable. >> you also have to look at the person you're going after. part of the cost of the fight is the emotional time and the time away from your business. sometimes it's actually as simple as writing a letter and say you shouldn't be doing that and people actually stop. before you get into a fight, think about all of the costs involved. >> think the lawyer is a good idea. sometimes people just don't know. or they know and think think they'll get away with it.
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when they see a letter, they think i'm not going to stop. thanks so much. in any of you out there have a question for your experts go to our website. there hit the ask a show link to submit the question for our panel. you can also email us your questions or comments. researching how to protect your small business invention and ideas. you might want to check out our website of the week. the small business page of the u.s. patent office provides basic information on patents, trademarks and copyrights. entrepreneurs can learn more about what blekt chal property protection options are available to them. the site includes information on whether or not to file for protection, what type of protection to file for and where to file.
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you'll also find links to the official forms you need. to learn more about today's show click on our website. you'll find all of today's segments plus web exclusive content with more information to help your business grow. and don't forget to become a fan of the show on facebook. we love getting your feed back. you can follow us on twitter. next week, the owners of a surf board company want you to know that their business is personal. >> it's an honor really to hear from people who have said they followed us for a fear, two years, three years and they've saved up enough money to do this. >> find out why these entrepreneurs offer classes to their customers to learn about the art of building a wooden surf board. until then i'm j.j. ramberg. remember, we make your business, our business.
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this is my band from the 80's, looker. hair and mascara, a lethal combo. i'm jon haber of alto music. i've been around music my entire life. this is the first alto music i opened when i was 24. my business is all about getting music into people's hands. letting someone discover how great music is, is just an awesome thing. and the plum card from american express open helps me do that. i use it for as much inventory as i possibly can. from picks...to maracas... to drums... to dj equipment... you name it, i can buy it. and the savings that we get from the early pay discount on those purchases has given us money to reinvest back into our business and help quadruple the size of our floor space. and the more we expand, the more space we have for instruments and musicians to come play them. rock n roll will never die.

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