7 Persistent Myths About Intellectual Property

Posting a copyrighted photo on a blog cost a small public relations company thousands of dollars, even though the photo wasn’t labeled with a copyright notice.

Labeling products with a patent number that didn’t match the exact model meant a construction-stilts manufacturer must pay large fines.

And a loophole in the intellectual property clause of an employee contract created nearly a decade of court battles and cost Mattel the Bratz doll empire.

These are just a few examples that show how common intellectual property mistakes can be extremely costly for companies of any size. For entrepreneurs, one intellectual property error could devastate a budding company. Here are seven of the most prevalent myths surrounding intellectual property and how misconceptions could hurt your company.  

Myth 1: Businesses automatically own all intellectual property created by employees and contractors. Many business owners mistakenly assume that when they hire an employee or a contractor, they as a matter of course own full rights to their work. But unless the employee or vendor contract explicitly states that the company owns the rights to any intellectual property created by the employee or contractor, entrepreneurs may be surprised to find that they have limited or no rights to the work.

Myth 2:  A patent grants worldwide protection. Obtaining a patent from the U.S. Patent Office generally protects only the patent within the U.S. Company managers who want to conduct business abroad have to file for a patent in each country in which they want to operate and must comply with each country’s unique patent laws.

Myth 3:  If it sounds "official,” it probably is. Scammers often prey on entrepreneurs’ desire to protect intellectual property. Common scams include emails that say the company needs to pay a fee to protect its trademark or domain name, or contain bogus invoices for protection services. Because the emails come from organizations that sound official and include specific information about the business, many owners pay the fees without question.  

Myth 4:  If it doesn’t have a copyright symbol, anyone can use it. Traditionally, any creative work that did not have a copyright notice or © symbol on it was free for public use. The law changed several decades ago so that copyrighted materials are protected with or without a copyright label. But many people think the old rules still apply, especially when it comes to material on the internet. Business owners should assume any material found on the internet has a copyright and seek permission from the owner for its use.

Myth 5: Trade secrets provide easy catch-all protection. Many owners of young businesses mistakenly think any information not covered by a copyright or patent can easily be protected as a trade secret. But trade secret protection can be difficult to enforce in court, and companies have to prove all of the following:

(a) The information gives the company a competitive advantage by virtue of being unknown.

(b) The company took reasonable measures to protect the information.

(c) The information is not generally known to the public or competitors.

Myth 6: Markings don’t matter. Some business people misuse intellectual property markings, either by using them too much or too little. For example, marking a patent number on items that don’t bear the exact patented design can result in fines of as much as $500 for each mislabeled item. On the other hand, failing to use trademark markings such as ™ and ® can lead to a brand name becoming a generic term that has no trademark protection, as occurred with formerly trademarked terms such as aspirin, zipper and thermos.

Myth 7:  I can wait to figure out my intellectual-property strategy. Companies have no time to waste in creating an intellectual property strategy, especially when it comes to patents. Last year the U.S. patent system changed from a “first to invent” system to a “first to file” system, meaning that patents are now awarded based on who files the application first, not who thought of the idea first.

Intellectual property matters leave little room for error, and a smart strategy concerning this should be a top priority for every entrepreneur. Every new business owner should have a trusted intellectual property consultant to help dispel the myths and build a sound strategy to best protect the company.

Great work by Anna Vitale!

Big kudos to Senior Engagement Manager, Anna Vitale for two WONDERFUL notes from happy clients -- one being an Academy Award winning screenwriter! GREAT work Anna!

"We brought our nascent business idea to Growthink. Anna Vitale was our point person. Growthink not only helped us organize and articulate the ideas we already had, they burrowed into our concept heart and soul, were a font of research and ideas, and helped us expand our idea into a more exciting and dynamic plan than we'd originally imagined. Anna is smart, organized, hard working and something you rarely find in any profession: a perfectionist. By the time Growthink's work was complete, Anna had spent untold hours revising, refining, and honing our business plan into a document we can present with confidence and pride.  I highly recommend Growthink and Anna."

Tom Schulman 

Followed by:


Back in November when we stepped into the Growthink office for the first time, we were four industry people who had a vision for a new company but no real blueprint to share with the business world.

On behalf of Chris, Rick and Tom, “Thank you, for your time, effort, consideration and attention to detail as we got started, seeing us through the holidays and making sure our final product reflects not only who we are but the work Growthink is committed to putting out in the world.”

While it took a bit longer and a few more hours and people than we all expected, we are happy with our final version and will be taking it out into meetings in the coming weeks.

Please pass our comments along to your colleagues and remind them on our behalf of your professionalism and your commitment to exceeding our expectations of excellent customer service.

In gratitude,
Boise Thomas
The RPL Effect Team

How to Make Your Management Consultant Feel Good

Today Jonah Moore and I moderated a strategic planning session for 27 executives of Mahar Tool Company at a retreat center in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  At the end of the day, Mahar President Mike Kovaleski gave Jonah and I gave us signed copies of Ari Weinzweig's book (famed founder of Zingermans) - "Being a Better Leader" and inscribed both copies for us with personal thank you notes for Jonah and me from the company's executive team.  A real keep sake. 

See below.  

Small Business Loan Wisdoms from Kabbage

Top 5 Small Business Loan Requirements

Congratulations, you’ve decided to launch your own venture, and now you’re curious about the small business loan requirements. While there are many choices and options when it comes to funding your dream, there are important requirements you need to have in place before any lender will consider your small business loan request. Here are the Top 5 small business loan requirements. 


Small Business Loan Requirement #1: Make Sure You Have Impeccable Credit
One of the most important, if not the most important small business loan requirement is ensuring your credit is excellent. Maybe not flawless – but it needs to be in really good shape. The key is preparation! Do your research ahead of time. Do you know your FICO score? Your FICO score is a summary of your credit risk which lenders use to assess things such as whether or not to extend credit and if so, at what interest rate. You can identify your credit risk and find out your FICO score by employing free online tools such as the one at www.fico.com.

When meeting with potential lenders, come prepared to show not only your business credit history but your personal credit history as well. Got credit card debt? A few late car payments? Student loans in default? These kinds of things will delay if not halt your small business loan process. Excellent credit is a fundamental aspect of small business loan requirements. Work aggressively to clean up your credit, fix any credit reporting errors (*Note: credit reporting errors do occur. Take time to read your credit reports thoroughly to ensure accuracy. Report any discrepancies immediately).

These factors are key for any lender when they are considering your ability to repay small business loans. Having stellar credit is an essential piece of the lending puzzle. It’s a snapshot of your financial performance – both as a small business owner and as an individual. The bottom line? Know your credit scores, fix any errors, work to improve your credit scores if possible (even if it means delaying your small business loan application process), and come prepared.


Small Business Loan Requirement #2: Have a Solid Business Plan
Any lender worth their salt will tell you that a well thought out and thorough business plan is a requirement of small business loans. A business plan is basically a profile of your business. It provides a detailed explanation of what your business is, how it fills a niche, the products or services you’re providing, etc. Essentially, it gives the lender a clear picture of what your small business is all about.

There are online resources to help you write a business plan if it’s not something you’ve done before, but overall, a business plan serves as a “blueprint” for your small business.

A good business plan includes:

  • A detailed description of the product or service you’re offering
  • An explanation of how your product is unique in the market
  • A description of how your business is fulfilling a need
  • A list of tactics and objectives for the goals you’ve identified for your business (i.e. you know where you want to go, but how will you get there?)
  • And perhaps most important, your business plan should show projected revenue

Each of these components provides lenders with a good snapshot of the potential success of your business. Your business plan should be also be a fact-based projection over the next three to five years or so of the expectations for revenue and growth you have for your small business.

Lenders use the information you provide in your business plan to project the success or failure of your business and to determine the worth of your business as it relates to securing a small business loan.

Don’t over think it! Your business plan doesn’t have to be a 12-page dissertation on the history of goods and services. It needs to be clearly stated, in plain English, with tactics and objectives clearly outlined.

There are plenty of free business plan templates and tutorials available online, including one at sba.gov. A solid business plan will serve you well as a tool for day to day reference in your business, and it is a main ingredient in the requirements for small business loans.

Small Business Loan Requirement #3: A Strong and Compelling Personal Resume
A personal resume might seem a bit odd to list as a requirement for small business loans, but it’s an important tool. Potential lenders want to see your work history. They want to know what level of expertise you bring to the table. You aren’t interviewing for a job here, but you are demonstrating that your combined talents and professional expertise have set the foundation for success as a small business owner. Appearances are everything. The more professional you appear on a resume, the more likely a lender will be to consider your small business loan application. 

As with business plans, there are countless free resources online to help you begin, update or polish your professional resume. As one of the significant small business loan requirements, spending a few dollars to ensure you’re painting the best picture possible of your professional accomplishments is money well spent.

            #3a: What’s Not On Your Resume…And Why It’s Important

We said “Top FIVE Requirements for Small Business Loans”, but there are some additional things we want you to be aware of regarding resumes and small business loan requirements.

A good resume speaks to your professional and personal accomplishments, the goals you’ve met and exceeded, the results you’ve achieved, the accolades or awards you’ve earned. It does not, however, indicate whether you’re male or female. Or if you’re a veteran. A person with disabilities. Or someone with social or economic disadvantages. All of these factors are important to convey because not only are there lending laws preventing discrimination of any kind, but there are also specific loans geared toward groups of people who in the past may have been discriminated against unlawfully. Specifically – women, minorities, veterans, businesses in rural areas and those business owners with certain disabilities.

Don’t consider these factors as weaknesses! Rather, you would do well to leverage the opportunities that now exist through fair lending laws to ensure you receive the greatest possible consideration for your small business loans.

In addition to a personal resume, this would be a good time to reach out to professional colleagues, friends and family who may be able to vouch for you. References are definitely one of the most important small business loan requirements – and they’re something that could make or break you. Review your list of vendors and clients. Is there anyone or any business with whom you’ve had trouble? Hopefully, you’ll have a good list of business and personal references that can be provided to lenders as they review your small business loan application.

Small Business Loan Requirement #4:  Bulletproof P&L Statements
If you’re not familiar with a basic profit and loss statement or a balance sheet, you may want to do some additional research online. You’ll need to make sure you have both your personal and business financial statements in order and bulletproof – meaning the level of integrity in your reporting is accurate and ethical. It is one of the best indicators as to how your business is doing in the real world and it’s one of the main things lenders consider when reviewing small business loan requirements.

Note: This is different from your credit rating. In simple terms, your P&L sheets represent the revenue you have coming in and the expenses you have going out. The difference between the two – along with other factors such as fixed costs - helps you determine your profit margin.

If your profit margin is relatively small, you may want to consider applying for a microloan. Microloans, such as those offered by the Small Business Administration, provide up to $50,000 to small business owners to help with business-related costs such as start up, inventory replenishment, and business expansion, to name just a few.

While these microloans are beneficial to small business owners, the time it takes to apply for the loan, process the application and wait for a decision can be cumbersome. Most small business owners need the cash quickly to expand their business, obtain working capital, purchase additional inventory or supplies, etc. A quicker alternative to traditional microloans is Kabbage’s short term, merchant cash advance loan called “Kabbage Kash.” It’s a seamless way to get funds quickly and easily and while similar to the SBA’s microloans – Kabbage offers a much faster turnaround time.

Note: Having some form of collateral – something against which you can base the loan application – is important (although not always required) for most lenders. Keep in mind that although your business idea and plan may sound great, without some kind of collateral to put up front, some lenders may be reluctant to offer loans.

Small Business Loan Requirement #5: Develop a Comprehensive, Strategic Marketing Plan 
One of the most overlooked requirements for small business loans is the development of a strategic marketing plan with vision toward the next two to three years, at least. Having the necessary capital to start up, re-launch, or expand your business is crucial, but lenders also need to see your plan for how you will successfully promote your business.

Years ago, a simple marketing strategy of direct mail, print ads, radio spots and possible television commercials would do the trick. Unfortunately, many of these tactics require a significant amount of advertising money upfront – funds that could be directly applied in your business to build inventory, expand product offerings, etc. Also, with newspaper and magazine readership at all time lows, who is really going to see your well-placed, highly priced, quarter page ad? The Internet has changed everything – and one thing it’s really changed is the way businesses advertise.

Social media has become one of the most effective and efficient means of advertising whether it’s business to business or business to consumer. By leveraging the powerful reach of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, email marketing, LinkedIn and/or blogging, you’ll be able to reduce your overall marketing costs and increase your reach to your target audience. Make no mistake, you’ll still need funds for marketing, but the amount is significantly less than in years past. And in the long run, a solid marketing plan based on “new” media tactics will leave you more funds to directly invest in your small business.

Final Thoughts
According to the latest US Bureau of Labor and Statistics research, there are approximately 28 million small businesses in the United States. Some succeed and some fail. It really all depends on your dedication, commitment, preparedness and your ability to meet the small business loan requirements most lenders call for.

Traditional lenders of small business loans include the brick and mortar bank buildings you can see on virtually every street corner in America. In fact, when you think about small business loans, personal banking, mortgages and the like, banks are usually the first things that come to mind. But don’t disregard the alternative lenders, such as Kabbage, as well. There are many lenders to choose from, but they are all there to help small businesses – just like yours – to grow and be successful.

All lenders – whether traditional brick and mortar or alternative lenders such as Kabbage – will be looking at three things when reviewing their requirements for small business loans:

  1. Your ability to repay loans
  2. Whether you are strong enough to withstand tough economic times, as evidenced over the last decade or so.
  3. And, they want to see your passion and commitment to making your small business succeed.

The final decision lies with you. It’s your business. Do your research! Know your facts. Put your best foot forward and make sure you’ve met these small business loan requirements.

Remember these 5 Requirements for Small Business Loans

  1. Be sure you have impeccable credit
  2. Have a solid business plan
  3. Create a strong and compelling resume (and leverage what’s not on your resume to maximize your loan potential)
  4. Bulletproof P&L statements
  5. Develop a comprehensive, strategic marketing plan

Source link: https://www.kabbage.com/guides/top-5-small-business-loan-requirements

Great work by Bridget Quinlan and Marci Haire of Growthink's Expert Market Research Team!

Awesome client testimonial for work done by Growthinkers Bridget Quinlan and Marci Haire! Great job!

"Thanks Bridget! 

Yes: you have made me a happy man indeed. 
This is my first time writing a business plan. I've found the process extremely educational. 
so glad we went in for another round with the global figures..... Paints a beautiful picture for my investors. 
Look forward to spreading the word about your company. 


Bridget QuinlanMarci Glasgow-Haire

5 Distribution Experiments You Can Do For $10 Or Less

By Matthew Berman

One of the common reasons / excuses I hear from companies as to why they’re not focused on distribution experiments has to do with the fact that founders think they need a large budget to have meaningful results.

We get it. It’s understandable not to want to blow through precious seed dollars with haphazard distro experiments. Don’t do that!

But just because you’re on a budget (who isn’t) doesn’t mean you should put off distro experiments until you raise a lot of funds. If you wait that long, you might not be able to raise.

Successful experiments can net you results that you can use as a stepping stone to run more segmented experiments, and/or funnel back into product development. The point is to start gathering data immediately.

Just like the lean startup methodology, we’re going to launch our ads early (build), read results (measure), and focus on expanding the signals of success (learn). 

“We don’t know what we’re doing and don’t want to waste money.”

This is valid. Most companies starting out don’t have a distribution hacker on demand, and could very well be shooting dollars in the dark.

Here’s what happens when you throw out paid acquisition altogether:

a) you handicap your product by cutting out a potentially valuable acquisition strategy

b) your company misses out on a valuable mine of ongoing feedback and data that could be going towards product development and improved messaging

c) you miss out on learning about your messaging, value propositions, and landing pages.

At 500 Startups, we believe in starting distribution from day 1.

To get you started, here are 4 distro experiments & hacks that the 500 Distribution Team has used to help our 1:1 clients and accelerator companies run distribution experiments and improvements on $10 a day — or less. 

#1 Test your conversion funnel

We recommend Mixpanel to a lot of our companies because it gives you free events / people in exchange for you simply putting their logo on your site.

1. Set up events at each step of your funnel and find the weak points in your funnel. Work to improve the weak points first
2. Reduce registration friction by only requiring completely necessary fields. This will increase the amount of users entering your product but be aware this will reduce the overall quality of incoming users. The hope is the increase in volume will offset the decrease in quality.

COST: Free

Wait, you don’t have an email funnel? You should really get on that. But don’t worry, it’s easy to get started with something simple, and still get results right away. 

#2 Capture / recapture abandoning users with funnel abandonment emails

This can be also done through Mixpanel.

1. Set up a people property for the “last step in funnel” that the user takes and email them a customized message when they drop out of the funnel.

2. You can also set up people properties for your best customers to reward them for hitting certain retention goals.

COST: Free 

#3 Test FB ads at minimal spend

If you don’t know what you’re doing, spending on FB ads can be scary like a runaway train. Luckily, there are a few techniques to mitigate risk and limit spend while still getting most of the key benefits of advertising on Facebook.

When you don’t have a large budget to spend it is best to start with broad targeting. It may seem like starting very targeted is the best path to take with a low budget, but there’s a needle-in-the-haystack problem with this approach. If you have 100 factors you can test and you are only testing 1 at a time, you’ll need get lucky with picking the one that is successful first. With broad targeting, your highs won’t be as high, but you’ll be able to test more general assumptions — which is how you need to start. You can also look for signals of potential success.

  1. Always test male/females separately. Gender segments will typically perform differently.

  2. Always test different age ranges separately. Different age segments will also usually perform differently.

  3. Test different value propositions, copy, and images.

    COST: You can get valuable results with a spending cap of $10 a day. 

#4 User Interview

One cheap method that garners valuable insight is the in-person interview. Aaahh! Talking to real people! We know, we know, but for $5, the insights you’ll learn are worth any potential awkwardness. And it’s never awkward to WIN, at UX and distribution that is.

Go to a coffee shop, buy people a cup of coffee, and watch them use your product. You can observe people’s natural interaction with your product, or suggest specific goals / actions for them to achieve.

  1. Focus on your onboarding flow. It will be painful to watch because things that are obvious to you as the creator are sometimes not obvious to users. But good-painful.

    COST: $5 or less 

BONUS: Learning The Tools

One final important reason to get started with distribution early is so you can learn the tools now (before you go big time)! This will save you time when you’re ready to scale your distribution strategies. 


Even if you’re not Whatsapp (and you’re not), or an amply funded startup, you don’t have to sit on your hands and wait for distribution to come to you. There are LOTS more experiments beyond what we’ve briefly outlined here, all at varying levels of spend.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that distribution should be a core focus for your company, now. Start early, start small, but START.