Business Law Willimantic CT

I am starting my own business. What intellectual property rights do I have?

Great question! Intellectual property rights can play a crucial role in a small business’s success- the key is using them efficiently and effectively.

Intellectual property is an umbrella term for your right to own, use, and keep anyone else from using something intangible. Your business logo, business name, and websites you have created are all examples of various types of intellectual property. In general, you have intellectual property rights in all of these things.

What are the types of intellectual property? 

Intellectual property rights are generally broken down into the following three categories: patent, trademark, and copyright. On occasion, subcategories such as trade dress, service mark, and rights of publicity are used as well.


Patents are obtained from the federal government. They are primarily used for mechanical or chemical inventions and provide temporary protection for rights in use. Special attorneys who have passed the patent bar must be used to obtain patent rights.


Trademarks protect things like brand names, logos, and sometimes identifiable jingles or color combinations. Trademark protection can be obtained through the same office as patent protection, but no special bar license is required to file an application. Unlike patents, trademark protection continues for as long as the mark is used in interstate commerce- it can continue indefinitely.

Trademark protection helps customers recognize and remember your brand and increases your visibility in the market.


Copyright protects any creative work that is fixed in a tangible medium of expression For example, books, paintings, and even computer codes are often copyrightable. Unlike other intellectual property rights, copyright vests automatically upon creation. This mean’s that, as soon as you write your book, you have intellectual property rights in it, without even filling out an application!

Registration with the copyright office is critical for the enforcement of rights. If you have a dispute over your content, it is critical that you apply for full copyright protection.

That’s a lot of information! So, what types of intellectual property rights should I use as a small business?

The correct way to use intellectual property rights is unique to each business. If you operate a business with a unique name and logo, and you sell any of your goods or services outside the state of Connecticut, we can help you obtain a trademark in your name or logo.

If you are a content creator and want to discuss copyright protection, we can help you navigate the application process.

If you are interested in patent protection, although our office is not authorized to aid you in the application process, you can still leverage any patent you may obtain to help push your business to the front of the pack.

Please call our office and set up a consultation to ensure that you are leveraging your intellectual property correctly, so we can help meet the unique needs of your business.

An often overlooked aspect by a small business owner is taking steps to protect their business in the event of their death.  So much time is spent on building and maintaining the business that little time is spent thinking about what happens when the principal business owner passes away.  And yet, estate planning for the small business is just as vital as for an individual or family.

The first step of estate planning for the small business is to think about how the business will continue to operate after your death. Take a moment right now to really think about that possibility!   Do you have people designated to run the business after you? Is there sufficient cash on hand or insurance proceeds to fund the business? One cannot close down the business for several days and then just “reopen” the doors assuming that business will not be affected. The highest and best value of a business is a “going concern.” This means that the value of a business will suffer a serious decrease once the doors are locked.

One of the biggest problems that the small business owner faces is the situation where there is more than one beneficiary to inherit the business but not all are active in the business itself. There is the dilemma of providing equal distribution to the heirs, while preventing the beneficiaries who are not active from interfering with the business operation. The formation of a corporation, limited liability company and/or limited partnership can become a valuable tool in dividing the economic and management interests of the business.

If the business is operated as a sole proprietorship, then the business will be inherited by beneficiaries listed in your Will or, if you do not have a Will, by the beneficiaries as designated by State law. Are those beneficiaries ready, willing and able to step in and operate a business? If not, you need to identify and designate individuals who have the ability and desire to maintain the business immediately following your death.  If the beneficiaries are not interested in keeping the business in the future, you should consider making an arrangement for the sale of the business to a particular individual or company prior to your death.

The transfer of the management and/or ownership of a company is much easier if the company is a corporation or limited liability company. But even in these cases, there is very often one key owner or key person operating the firm.  Buy/Sell agreements which will transfer the ownership of those shares or membership interests to remaining stockholders or members become much more frequent in this situation.

One big advantage that a corporation or a limited liability company has in the estate planning arena is that the key owner has the ability to distribute an interest in the company to his or her beneficiaries during their lifetime. This is especially useful on the tax planning of the decedent’s estate, and these transfers can be set up while simultaneously minimizing the impact on the management decisions for the company.