Guard Your Brand with Marcy Sperry
After braving through about one hour of traffic to get to The Buckhead Bread Company in Atlanta, I was a little bit nervous after getting a small corner table inside.
I met Marcy Sperry during the SAUPO (Symposium on Asia-US Partnership Opportunities) conference hosted by Dr. May Gao of Kennesaw State University on April 14th.
Since meeting her it seemed like everything that could get in the way of meeting her did get in the way! Luckily, the stars aligned and we were finally going to have breakfast together to discuss her work as a Trademark and Intellectual Property Attorney.
I instantly felt comfortable when Marcy walked over and greeted me with a warm hug, “Do you want to take a picture for Instagram?” she said. I knew that I definitely had nothing to worry about after that!
As we reminisced over the conference after ordering some coffee, we casually discussed how important Marcy’s line of work truly is to business owners everywhere.
Marcy began her career in law as an associate at King & Spalding LLP, where she worked on a litigation team that defended companies in product liability cases. After a year of gaining legal training at one of the most competitive firms in the industry, she became an attorney at Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice LLP, where she gained experience in the field of Intellectual Property (IP). Another equally successful and well-established firm.
With an expression of extreme gratitude, Marcy describes her experience at Womble Carlyle as the pivotal moment in her career where she discovered her passion for IP enforcement and litigation.
After over a decade of practicing at Womble Carlyle, Marcy joined The Sladkus Law Group, a boutique IP firm in Atlanta, in order to further specialize and hone her skills in trademarks and related IP matters. On March 1st, 2017 Marcy finally took a leap and became the founding partner in her own firm called Sperry IP Law, which specializes in trademarks, branding, and related IP matters.
By the time Marcy finishes explaining how she moved towards becoming an entrepreneur, I am truly impressed. Here’s someone who understands how to work for someone else, to ultimately work for herself. Many of use hate to admit it, but sometimes experience working for someone else is what will give you the knowledge you need to work for yourself.
There’s always more than one way to reach your goals, of course. However, mentorship, working your way up, and putting a narrow focus on what you hope to accomplish are just a few important points I took away from Marcy’s come up story.
Marcy’s firm protects her clients’ trademarks both in the U.S. and internationally. She has developed a strong network of international IP firms (including Canada, Mexico, Europe, and Asia) with whom she interfaces to provide the most robust trademark protection possible. In addition, Marcy enforces her clients’ trademarks and IP in opposition and cancellation proceedings before the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office as well as in federal court litigation.
As a young entrepreneur I had to ask Marcy if she had any tips to offer, and she did not disappoint! Here’s what I learned:
1. The difference between the types of Intellectual Property for businesses that can be protected.
- Trademarks: A trademark, often referred to as a brand, is a word, phrase, symbol, or design that distinguishes the source of products (trademarks) or services (service marks) of one business from its competitors. (Example: The Nike swoosh, McDonald’s golden arches design, even a color can be protected like the distinctive Tiffany Blue box)
- Patent: Property rights on an invention that prevents others from making. Selling, or using the invention. (Example: Utility or design of an item like a pair of shoes)
- Copyrights: Copyrights protect original works of authorship, such as literary works, music, dramatic works, pantomimes and choreographic works, sculptural, pictorial, and graphic works, sound recordings, artistic works, architectural works, and computer software. (Example: Art, movies, books.)
- Trade Secrets: A trade secret is a formula, process, device, or other business information that companies keep private to give them a business advantage over their competitors. (Example: The Coca-Cola formula)
2. Learn how to protect your Intellectual Property and Trademarks.
- Learning how to protect your brand is so important! Most young entrepreneurs think that it’s too early to protect their brand, because it’s too early and we’re not making that much of a profit. That’s simply not true. It’s better to learn how to protect your brand now before you become successful, and there are more competitors out there that can infringe upon your brand.
3. Clear your trademark before using them.
- Before using your trademark, you should hire a trademark attorney to conduct a trademark search to find out whether or not you could be infringing upon another company’s trademark. In the U.S., trademark rights are based on who used the mark first. If you don’t do a search, a prior user could come out of the woodwork down the road and object to your use of the same or similar mark. Such an objection could take the form of a cease-and-desist letter, opposition before the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, or a lawsuit. The costs of doing a proper search before launching your mark pale in comparison the possible costs of not doing the search and potentially having to defend against a lawsuit and rebrand. This is so important! You don’t want to have to rebrand your company because someone else has already established brand presence with the same or similar trademark. Finally, you should register your trademark because a federal trademark registration entitles you to a number of critical advantages: presumption of nationwide rights (even if you are not using the mark in every state), right to use the registration symbol, serves as a deterrent to infringers, allows you to sue for infringement in federal court, among many other benefits.
These were the three biggest tips that really stood out to me during breakfast with Marcy, and I will not take her advice lightly. Seriously! I think all young entrepreneurs could stand to take our brands to the next level by protecting them legally. We all see ourselves making it big, so why not start now?
If you want to get in touch with Marcy to find out how you can protect your brand, contact her using the information below!
Office Number: 404-788-1976