How to Profit from Your Intellectual Property (aka Turner Barr & Adecco Make a Deal)

As an entrepreneur, you make intangible stuff. And that intangible stuff has value. The brand name you've built up, the blog you've created with thousands of readers, your e-courses, video series', e-books, etc. all have value. If someone else wants to use it and make money from it, they should pay you and, in a lot of cases, they will pay you.
But in order to make it to the sacred land of making money from your ideas – where milk, honey and cashola freely flow, you have to conduct yourself like a business, MAN. Not a lowly solopreneur. Got it?

Case in point, Turner Barr and his Around the World in 80 Jobs brand.

By now you've heard about Turner Barr and his beef with Adecco USA, the corporation that began using his brand, ‘Around the World in 80 Jobs‘ for a youth work initiative/marketing campaign. If you haven't heard, get all the deets here in my previous post.
After learning that Adecco USA was using his brand name including filing an application to register the trademark, Turner contacted the corporation to attempt to work it out. After getting the run around for about 4 weeks, Turner turned to social media to bring attention to the issue, hoping to get Adecco's attention and work out a deal. Luckily, the social media campaign went viral even reaching main stream news.
Six days into the social media campaign, Turner laid out the terms of a settlement proposal he would be willing to accept from Adecco, should they be so inclined to work it out and end the social media onslaught. The terms Turner laid out were as follows:

  1. An apology for using his brand without seeking his permission,
  2. Compensation in the amount of $50,000, an amount thought to be equal to what Adecco paid their ad firm for the Around the World in 80 Jobs marketing initiative,
  3. Dropping their trademark application for the Around the World in 80 Jobs mark and also renaming their campaign, and
  4. A $50,000 donation to the Save Elephant Foundation, an organization near and dear to Turner.

Two days later, Turner announced that he and Adecco made a deal.  Adecco accepted all of Turner's terms including paying the $100,000, half going to Turner and half going to the charity Turner chose. And most importantly, Adecco abandoned their trademark application for Around the World in 80 Jobs and renamed their youth work initiative, now calling it The Work Initiative Contest (not a very good name but at least its not stolen).
That deal worked out pretty good for Turner and good for Adecco in that they were able to end the social media mayhem that was really killing them PR-wise for an entire week.

However, how much better would this deal have been on the front end for both parties?

If Adecco would have approached Turner when they first discovered the mark and their desire to use it, they could have created a licensing deal with Turner. He could have been their spokesperson for their youth initiative, allowed them to use the mark and brought his social media prowess to bring good publicity to Adecco rather than bad. Now, Adecco is spending money to NOT use the mark. That kinda sucks, doesn't it? When's the last time you paid $100,000 to NOT get something?
For Turner, he spent a month not writing and working on his blog because he was giving attention to this issue. So he lost a month's worth of blog building and any income that could have gone along with that. I think he does benefit from the social media campaign in that he brought a great deal of awareness to his brand. But the opportunity to build a long term corporate sponsorship-type relationship with Adecco or any other staffing company after this issue is now unlikely. A licensing deal would have worked out much better for Turner and probably would have been more lucrative in that Adecco might have paid more and it may have lead to other corporate sponsorships and lucrative relationships for Turner. But that is not Turner's fault.
As I said in my previous post, I think Turner's only misstep was not registering the trademark for Around the World in 80 Jobs. Had he done that, there is a much greater chance that Adecco would have approached him to work out a deal instead of trying to get away with using his brand without paying. Why? Because federal trademark registration comes with statutory damages in the five to six-figure range that serve as a huge deterrent to would-be infringers.

Here are some of the other benefits of federal trademark registration:

  • It solidifies your rights in the mark nationally. Common law trademark rights (what Turner has) only give you rights to the mark in the geographic areas where you are actually operating in commerce. If you’re business is well-known in the Midwest but not elsewhere in the country your common law trademark rights are limited to the Midwest. Without federal registration, you may not have any claims of infringement if a competitor located in Florida starts using the trademark. To prevent others from using your trademark nationally, you will have to register the mark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). What’s worse is if your competitor in Florida using the trademark obtains the federally registered trademark before you have a chance to, they could limit your use of the mark to the areas where your business currently has a presence. That would really be unfortunate if you had plans to expand to other regions in the country. Although, when using a mark online, geographical limitations can be less likely if you've got a broad reach because anyone in the world can access a website.
  • It creates a public record of your ownership of the mark and puts others on notice of your ownership of the mark. Everyone is presumed to be aware of marks appearing in the Federal Register (which includes all marks approved for registration by the USPTO). Therefore, infringement of a federally registered trademark can never be in good faith because everyone has notice. So Adecco's “we didn't know claim” would have been dead in the water. Claiming you didn’t know is not a defense. (Which is also the reason why you should do a search before committing to a brand name to avoid infringing on someone else's mark).
  • It gives you the ability to file a lawsuit for trademark infringement in federal court. And as mentioned above, if you win the lawsuit you will be entitled to the defendant’s profits derived from using your mark, your  actual damages (such as loss of profits) and your attorney’s fees. The ability to sue in federal court, along with the presumption of notice and the hefty damages serve as a big deterrent to would-be infringers, a la Wu Tang Clan ain't nothin' to f*** with!
  • Federal registration of your trademarks is an asset that can be sold, licensed and otherwise used to make deals, increasing the value of your business and brand. If you ever want to obtain outside capital or sell your business, securing the trademarks and other IP will increase your company’s value. It also gives you the ability to license the use of your content and products (without fear of them cutting and runnin') which expands the reach of your work and makes you more money.

So, how can you profit from your intellectual property?

Step 1 – Recognize the value in your work and ideas. As I've said before, if you don't recognize the value you are creating then you won't bother to capture the intellectual property in your biz and protect it.
Step 2 – Federally register your intellectual property. That means going through the copyright registration process for your original works of authorship – articles, videos, audio recordings, original photography, software, e-books, e-courses and other digital products. And registering your brand elements with the USPTO. Your logo, slogan, product name, name of your company, product packaging, and other aspects of your funky, funky style can all be protected via trademark registration. Also, for physical products, formulas, recipes and other inventions, consider filing a patent application or protecting it as a trade secret (shhhhhh!!!!).
Step 3 – Sell products and services under your brand name. This is the most obvious way to make money with your intellectual property – create original content or products or services and sell it under a brand name. Its also the most labor intensive. Another way to make money from your intellectual property is to sell or license the IP itself, a la land of milk and honey.
Step 4 – License your intellectual property. If you wanted to give other companies the ability to buy a license to use your proprietary method to work with their own clients or wanted to license your brand name to another business for use with a specific product or campaign, its wise to secure the federal intellectual property rights first (you could technically do it without it but that’s a very bad idea because there is no built in protection to ensure that they don't misappropriate your work, aka steal yo' shit).
Here is a sample of my clients and friends who have sold or licensed their intellectual property recently:

  • A coach sold a license to use her video series to a company that distributes how-to content,
  • A financial planner sold a video series to a wealth management website,
  • A travel blogger sold a book to a travel company which was sold to consumers under their brand name,
  • A consultant sold a license to her e-course to a large company who wants to distribute it to its clients under its brand name (incident to that deal was them also hiring her to work one-on-one with their clients who wanted more after going through the course),
  • Another consultant licensed her workshop material to a company using her content to train their staff.

Profiting from your intellectual property can be very lucrative because it allows you to make serious cash for work you've already done. It can also expand the reach of your work and expand your audience.  To drive home my point, I'll leave you with a quote:

“Intellectual property is the oil of the 21st century. Look at the richest men a hundred years ago: They all made their money extracting natural resources or moving them around. All today’s richest men have made money out of intellectual property.”  – Mark Getty

For more on how to protect and profit from your intellectual property – including copyright, trademarks, patents and trade secrets – AND other info to help you do business LIKE A BOSS check out Small Business Bodyguard™. Click here to enter your email address for access to the free Small Business Bodyguard™ Legal Clinic starting July 8th. 

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