Business owners are usually big picture and entrepreneurial persons. Successful business owners typically have a thousand and one things they are working on at the same time. However, they are not successful because they over-schedule themselves. To be successful they cannot afford to know every detail and certainly cannot afford to acquire every skill needed to run a business. That is why they hire trusted professionals, such as accountants, lawyers, and IT professionals.
Unfortunately, when it comes to trademark legal advice, small business owners often feel like the decision is a catch 22. If they choose not to use an attorney for advice or to document their business or intellectual property matters, then they risk increased long terms costs in potential lawsuits or loss of intellectual investment. On the other hand, it is difficult to gauge the quality of a lawyer and it can be even more difficult to predict what your overall legal costs will be on any given project. How does one determine the ROI from legal services or conduct a cost benefit analysis?
The first thing a business owner needs to know evaluate the potential ROI or to conduct a cost benefit analysis for legal services is what the total expected legal expenses, including attorneys fees and costs, will be. It may seem that your lawyer’s answer to most questions is “depends. This is usually because your lawyer is trying to account for unknowns. But for a business owner trying to get his or her head wrapped around finances, this is not a very satisfying answer.
Fortunately, for intellectual property (IP) services, such as patent or trademark work, it is much easier to predict what your legal fees will be. For example, trademark search services and trademark registration services are commonly done a flat fee basis. Generally, a trademark search can be conducted without any hidden or unknown costs or fees involved. A trademark registration application can usually be prepared and filed by a trademark lawyer for a flat fee and, if a comprehensive trademark search has been conducted prior to filing the trademark application, unknown or unexpected costs can be minimized.
Ironically, trademark registration services are often where small businesses try to bootstrap their business by doing the trademark work themselves or by using a self-help service such as LegalZoom. Unfortunately, this is where small businesses often get into trouble and increase the likelihood of additional legal costs down the road in the form of litigation or attempts to recoup IP rights that were lost because proper steps were not taken to protect it.
Having a good trademark lawyer at the beginning can be a worthwhile investment. If you are a business owner, consider the value of registering your trademarks early on. Then speak with an experienced trademark lawyer regarding flat fees, expected costs, and your budget. You may find that a good trademark lawyer is more affordable then you had realized and that the expected ROI merits the investment.