Protecting Your Intellectual Property
Nov 12, 2020
You're launching offers into the world, creating amazing assets and sharing your brilliance...but is your I.P. protected? In this episode, Intellectual Property lawyer, Kristen Roberts, is sharing what online business owners can do to protect their assets and how to use your I.P. to make more money.
I talked to Kristen about...
- her shift from trained opera singer to law
- the journey to opening her law firm
- how one client helped her grow her practice
- the musical parodies she does on IG to teach all about trademark and copyright
- what exactly your IP (intellectual property) is and what types of things fall under it
- why our IP is a businesses most important asset
- the wealth building possibilities when you protect your IP
- common mistakes people around IP and how to avoid them
- how to know if you're ready to trademark, copyright, or patent your IP
- ways you could license your business to build wealth
- handling policies and refunds in your offers
- buying templates vs hiring a lawyer
...and much more.
People and things mentioned in this episode
Protect Your A$$ets workshop: Trademark and Copyright Basics For Entrepreneurs
Rachel Rodger's We Should All Be Millionaires Club
Learn more about our guest, Kristen Roberts
Kristen Roberts, is founder and managing attorney of Trestle Law, APC, a BIPOC-owned law firm specializing in helping game changing entrepreneurs leverage their intangible assets to build a financial legacy.
With over a decade of experience in intellectual property, and a real-life law school professor, she's not only passionate about working with clients, but she also knows how to cut out the dreaded lawyer speak (she saves that for the paperwork!), and teaches business owners how to effectively how to use their intellectual property to its fullest advantages.
Read the full transcript so you don't miss a thing
Sara: Today on the launch playbook podcast, I'm so excited to welcome Kristen Roberts, and intellectual property attorney to the podcast. I recently had the pleasure of attending her amazing workshop protect your assets, which I'll get into in a little bit. But first, Kristen, welcome and tell us about your story. And how did you end up as an IP attorney?
Kristen: Hi, thank you so much for having me. I'm really excited to be here today. I'm even more excited because you were sort of intimately involved in helping me with my first launch. And I know we'll get into that. But to give you a little bit of background about myself, I actually didn't start out as an intellectual property attorney. My background was in litigation. But I went to law school originally because I wanted to be a famous singer. So my degree my undergraduate degree is in music. And I am actually a classically trained opera singer. And I majored in music with an emphasis in voice. But I've been singing since I was like two years old, my initial background was in like jazz torch songs, you know, r&b type music, and then I went to college, and they didn't have a jazz major, and I couldn't really build one. And so I ended up, you know, kind of being funneled into the classical realm. And I was, I grew up playing the piano, but in college, I had ended up having to sing classical music, and I thought I would hate it, but I ended up loving it. But my goal in life was always to be a famous singer. And so when I got towards the end of my college career, I thought to myself, well, I need to know how to negotiate my contracts. And so I thought I'd go to law school to do that, which was a little bit naive of me at the time.
Kristen: But you know, that's sort of my, like, 19 year old brain working. So I decided to apply to law school, my junior year of college, and I actually did dismally bad on the L SAT. I mean, it was so bad that one of my mentors told me to not even bother applying to law school and wait a year and retake the L SAT. But I said, No way. I'm not doing that. I got into a couple of law schools. And I ended up coming down to San Diego for law school. And I always plan on going into the entertainment industry. And so my first summer, in law school, I worked for a media distribution company doing licensing and special markets and that kind of stuff. I also worked for record label in college doing licensing. And that was sort of my first experience with intellectual property. But I didn't end up really liking Los Angeles or the industry or any of it. And so I was a little bit disillusioned and went back to the drawing board my second year of law school like, well, what am I going to do, I don't like what I planned on doing. And so I got into litigation. I was like, they always need people in courtrooms, they always need people who know how to handle disputes. So that was what I decided to do. I also interned for a woman who owned her own trademark practice. So that's actually how I learned trademark law. I also did really well in all my trademark classes. And so I kind of was something that I wanted to continue to pursue, but I just didn't really know how to kind of, you know, get in the door with that. So I did litigation, I worked for a small law firm after college doing mostly general civil litigation. But in the meantime, I was building up their intellectual property department because they didn't have one. And so when I left to start my own law firm, after three years with that firm, I knew I didn't want to do litigation anymore. But I was litigating cases in the central and southern districts of California and federal court, I was litigating trademark infringement disputes. It was, you know, really great experience because it was a small law firm. So I was sort of trial by fire taught everything just by doing. And so when I start my started my own practice, I knew I didn't want to take on as much litigation as I was taking on I wanted to, I was newly married, I wanted to have a family and all of that. And so litigation is tough as a woman, and as a mom, you're already underestimated going in, in our in, in the litigation world. It's already difficult enough for women attorneys. But then when you have a child, it makes it even harder because you're very much beholden to the court scheduling. So it's like you come for this hearing, you know, you don't get to be like, excuse me, Your Honor. I can't do that. Because you know, I've got kids will figure it out counselor, you know, so I knew I didn't want to do that as much. I wanted to really be more in control of my schedule. And so I started taking on more transactional work, but I Felt well suited to do transactional work because I had that courtroom experience. And then I also was approached by my law school that I'd graduated from, and they'd asked me to come and start teaching intellectual property forces. And it sort of just built from there. I it started really with just one client, actually, she's a professional. Her name is Steph gaudreau. She won the first 10 k in 10 Days Challenge. And she and I, she was my first client and she had one lips, you know, what I consider to be a small issue with her trademark application. I helped her with it. And she just started singing my praises to everyone in the at the time it was known as like the Paleo industry. And that was where I started growing my practice area and my niche and it's it you know, my, my entire practice was built on that. And then I started branching outward. Now I represent all different kinds of companies and clients. And it's been, it's been an adventure.
Sara: I love that story. There's so many things I want to dig into and what you just told me first, I have to say if you haven't checked out Kristen on Instagram, we'll put that in the show notes. You have to see her sing it beautiful voice about all things like trademark and copyright because it's friggin amazing. What you do. You wrote.
Kristen: Yeah, well, I mean, obviously, I don't write the music, I take it, you know, I take music that exists and then I turn it into a parody, which is kind of made up because it's fair use so it sort of speaks to copyright issues. Um, it's like a an example with an example I've like I'm like inception in my my instructions. But yeah, I write all the lyrics. They usually take me an hour or so the recording takes, you know, I sit there with my iPad with my setlist up with the lyrics that I wrote behind my computer and I record myself on my phone with the my MacBook Pro and my my iPad out so I'm like,
I've got all the tech going for recording though.
Sara: Amazing. And then you mentioned stuff courtroom and being a smelly so just for anyone listening just know that a smelly is you want to tell them better?
Kristen: Oh, yeah. So we are part of it's actually how you and I met Rachel Rogers is group. She's an amazing entrepreneur and business coach, and attorney actually, who initially I think started out a law firm and then you know, decided to make the leap to coaching. And we're in the group. We're all in the group together. But I think it stands for should be millionaires, right? I think so too. Yeah, I love that.
Sara: I love that. It's just all coming at you and stuff are connected there too. And that's how we've met. Yep. So recently, I attended your amazing workshop that protect your assets. And as you mentioned, I was part of helping you get it out there as well. And in there, you talked about intellectual property. And it's something that I realize comes up a lot when it comes to launching, though maybe not exactly in those terms. So when my clients come to me, and we're writing like sales pages, or talking about their course creation, they do want to know how to protect it from someone else sharing it, that's something they are concerned about. And then we even talk about having like that money back guarantee, which is really important to have as part of a sales page, because it reverses risk. And people feel like you really stand behind your product. But then the course graders are really concerned like, hey, what if we offer this and then someone like comes in for 30 days and takes our stuff, what they're really talking about when it's all about that, like people sharing it and having these guarantees it's kind of about protecting their IP, right?
Kristen: Yeah, absolutely. So, and IP, a lot of people don't really understand what intellectual property is. And there's really, it's an intellectual property I call I like to think of it as like the overarching umbrella. And your and what's what falls within the purview of intellectual property are going to be your copyrights, your trademarks, your patents, those are the most standard ones. But you also have things like trade secrets, you also have things like your name and likeness. So you're, especially if you are somebody like like Rachel Rogers, for example, who is a public figure, you know, her image, her likeness, her name, her voice is going to have value because, you know, it's how she promotes herself in the world. So that also falls into the world of intellectual property. But generally speaking, what you're really talking about when you say IP is your copyrights, your trademarks and your patents,
Sara: Right. So why does it matter that we protect those?
Kristen: Yeah, well, because they're your most valuable business asset in my opinion. So especially if, if the pandemic has taught us any shifting away from brick and mortar. You know, even since the 90s, I think we've started to make that shift into the digital world more and more. And that was really where I built my practice. I started working with bloggers and authors and people that were monetizing their social media. And those were the clients that I started my practice working, you know, working with, or valuable intangible assets are just really out there. And if you don't protect them, well, you it becomes very difficult to wield them in a way that you can make money for yourself. And so that's really what why I think they're the most valuable asset In your business is because not only do they identify to the public who you are, and you know, signify the quality of the good or the service that you are offering, but they can also be used and put to work to generate income and additional value to your business.
Sara: So what are some things that are sort of possible for us or, you know, online business owners? When we do protect it? Do you have a few examples you could
Kristen: Yeah, absolutely. So you know, if you think about, and, and this would depend primarily on what industry you're in, right, so if we're talking about a course creator, for example, a lot, of course, creators get approached by larger companies to create a course for them, that's based off of what they already offer. So really, what you're talking about is licensing, you're talking about creating content, creating intellectual property, and then letting giving it to somebody else. Now, the way you give it is what we're talking about here, because you can either give it over and all of the rights go with it. Or you can retain some of the rights and be entitled to receive money off of those rights that you're still holding on to. So you're basically you're not just selling the product outright, you're not just selling the course outright, and then you're not entitled to anything anymore, what you're doing is retaining ownership, but giving this other company the right to use it in a very specific way. So that control over how your ideas how your products and services are used by others. That's really the power power of intellectual property and licensing, would this be like a corporate company and coming to us and maybe wanting? Like, if you were a wellness, like course creator, maybe they want to use your wellness course, within their employees type of thing? Yeah, exactly. Or let's say they wanted you to come in and give like training lectures, right? So there's various pieces to that intellectual property question, you've got the lecture itself. So is that lecture itself that you're going to be delivering? Is that something that you want to eventually be able to monetize? Are they going to be recording it? And if so, where are they going to be storing it? And how are they going to be making letting other people have access to it? And third, your name and likeness? So you actually physically appearing on camera, your voice, the recording all of that, that also lends itself to intellectual property? There's some intellectual property questions is there as well? Primarily, you know, how can they use your video, right? So if they're using it for their employees, great, but if one of their employees takes it and turns you into a meme that's like sexual in nature, and really ruins your reputation, you also have to consider those things as well. So the way the contract is drafted between you and that company that wants to bring you on board to do something for them, you really have to think past just Well, how much are they going to pay me to do this? Because oftentimes, that's the mistake that I see is a lot of these coaches go, oh, they're gonna pay me X amount of money. This is so great, but what they're missing the forest for the trees? Because the payment up front is just one piece of it afterwards, what are they going to do with what your what content you're creating for them? How are they going to use it? And if they're going to monetize it? Do you want to be entitled to a piece of that monetization?
Sara: Yeah, I love that you brought up the mistakes that would come in, because I think you're right, that it could feel so exciting. And that if someone came to you the first, the first few times, right? for your course, you're just like, oh, like I'm gonna, there's so much possibility of money here. But there's so many other things at play that we're not paying attention to, or know that we don't know about.
Kristen: Exactly. And even and even from within your own organization, a lot of other mistakes that I've seen with clients that can really be costly in terms of their overall intellectual property. So really making sure that you own your IP outright is the most important first step, because then you can at least be clear of and dictate how others can use it. But if there's a cloud over whose own who owns it, it makes it really hard for you to put it to work for yourself, because now you're having to clean up ownership issues. So even from within your own organization. I know a lot of people work with independent contractors to help them create content. But the federal law, the Copyright Act is really clear that unless you have a contract that specifies that the work that they're doing for you, they assign all right title and interest to the ownership over to you. The law is really clear that without absent in agreement of that nature, the work actually belongs to the Creator, which is going to be your independent contractor, even if you've paid them. So just paying somebody to do something for you, doesn't mean you own the product that they've created.
Sara: Right. So that means technically they could go and take it and use it for someone else, unless you've specified that or use it for themselves, which is why an independent contractor agreement is really really important. Even more so. So what that intellectual property provision says in that in that contract, I love that you brought that up. Because I think, again, going back to like clients and launching, they're thinking more about the end user and how they could maybe take that they've created, but all the people that have actually helped them create that product are also part of that protection that we need to protect that as well.
Kristen: Absolutely. Absolutely. And I know that there's sort of this chicken in the egg question that I get a lot, which is like, I'm just starting out, I don't know if this is going to be my flagship offer. I don't know if this is going to be successful. I mean, you know, you and I have spoken about my workshop. And I'm going well, I don't know if this is really what I want. Is this what I want to keep doing? Do I want to move towards something else? And so there is that that question like, well, is it worth protecting it? Now, if I don't know, I'm going to use it later. And my responses, if you can justify spending the money on setting up a website, or a landing page, putting all of your marketing email funnels together, plugging it into all of your, you know, email marketing, your CRM systems, all of that, and you're paying for all of that stuff. But you're completely unwilling to invest in the very real protection that comes with having all of your intellectual property locked in from the get go and setting up that framework, then, then you're really setting yourself you're really being short sighted,
in my opinion, right?
Sara: And so ideally, then people will be doing that before they actually launched out the gate into the world. And even from the get go when they're hiring people to work with them on it.
Kristen: I mean, not necessarily, I think when you hire people, I definitely think if you're working with anybody that's an independent contractor, you definitely want an independent contractor agreement. And really want you know, you really want to make sure that your IP permits are clear in terms of what you want protected, because there's this mistake that I see a lot of people make where they find a template online, and they just doctor it up themselves. But the intellectual property provisions in those agreements, they should be specifically tailored to what it is that you're doing. Because in order to if you ever need to enforce an agreement like that, in a court of law, the more specific and detailed your intellectual property provisions are, to your business to the thing that you're trying to protect, the easier it will be to enforce it in court.
Sara: Okay. And when people aren't when you're thinking about it, investing in protecting it, what kind of numbers do people have to think about? I'm sure it can range, but is there sort of a range they can think about?
Kristen: Yeah, absolutely. So I always say, if you look at what you spend on a website, so most people that I've spoken with, have spent at least five grand on a website. on a website, at least right now. And that's speaking as somebody like myself, who, you know, I, I'm guilty of that, too. I started my law firm. And I wanted the biggest, baddest website. And within the first like, two years, I spent, you know, over $5,000, just like constantly updating it hiring new people trying to find like, the magic sauce until finally I was like, I'm just doing this myself, I'm done. But But I would say a good number to think about starting with is about 20 $500. That's probably that can at least get you something that can at least get you something locked in to where you can be in a position to, you know, launch in a way that that feels like, well, at least I've got that groundwork.
Sara: So you're talking about licensing? What is it? Like? What is the big benefit of doing this? And are you talking about making money? What are some of the benefits around that maybe like the long term benefits of doing it?
Kristen: Yeah, absolutely. So very briefly what licensing is, and licensing can, there can be a lot of different types of licensing, but in general, you're either your, what you're doing is you're giving the right to use something that you own to someone else. And so either the right to exploit it, meaning make money off of it, or distribute it, or publish it or display it, you're basically dictating how, when and why somebody can use something that belongs to you that's intangible. So a brand, a workbook, a handbook, videos, recordings, all of those things that sort of make up your your business's secret sauce, you're giving somebody else the right to use that. And so that contract becomes very important, what's in that, but the benefits to it are that you can actually have somebody do the hard work or the heavy lifting for you in getting your message out and getting your content out to the rest of the world. And you're not giving up the right to collect money off of that. So you're almost like spreading your your message farther, you're casting your net a lot wider by licensing without having to undertake all of that work yourself. A really good idea are what I like to call offshoots. So let's say you are in the health and health and wellness space. And you are in the very specific niche of money coaching, right? And you and your in you work with like health and wellness professionals as a money coach? Well, let's say that everybody really loves your program that you're offering. But you're getting a lot of people that are saying, Well, now I want to become a money coach, but I want to teach your way that you're doing things, right. So what you can do is create almost like a certification, to allow those people to go through your program, but use that certification mark, to indicate that those people who have been through your program are certified money coaches that teach your program. And now and what you can do for those money coaches is get a little cut of what it is that they're bringing in, because they went through your program, and they're using your mark to signify to everybody else in the world that they're working with, that they went through this program, and that this program is trustworthy and and good.
Sara: Amazing. Something that we talked about later first conversation, I remember was about also how intellectual property and protecting it can help us build really like long term wealth out legacy wealth. Do you want to talk about that a little bit why that's so important.
Kristen: like I talked about before, if you're talking about offshoots, and things like that, building out that ability to do those things on your own is very expensive, right. So as a business, if you're like, well, I sell haircare products, but eventually I want to sell body care products. And eventually I want to do food. And eventually I want to do all of these things right under your brand. If you think about how long it takes to launch each of those products, it becomes very expensive. But intellectual property can allow you to do that through licensing, without you actually having to invest in the infrastructure to to produce those offshoots. A really good example is Nike, Nike owns very little right, I mean, they're not the ones putting out they don't have all the factories, putting out all of the T shirts and all of the hats with all of the Nike swoosh is on them they contract with and they give third parties the right to put their marks on those products for them. And so what they're doing is effectively licensing. And then they also get into partnerships with other people. And then they also get into endorsements for other athletes. And that's really how they're able to sort of spread that out. And it creates that long term wealth, because you're not having to be the one constantly in the business, doing the thing all the time, you're basically giving other people the right to do what you were originally doing through licensing. So it, it allows you to sort of take a step back, while still being involved in some of the core things that you were originally working on. But really sort of casting that wide net and reaping the benefits financially from it.
Sara: Not what we all want to do. Yes. That's amazing. So what could course creators and online business owners do if they find someone who is copying or selling their work or sort of using their IP? And they haven't yet protected it? What could they do about?
Kristen: Yeah, so there's a number of different ways. First of all, it's going to depend on the kind of infringement if it's a brand name, so if it's a logo or logo, or a slogan, or tagline or your name, or your trade dress is another one, which is basically like the look and feel of something, if you go into an apple store, you know, it's very unique. It's, you know, when you're inside of an apple store, right? It's that, that that design, that decor that feel it's the same across the board, that's trade dress. So that's actually protectable intellectual property as well, especially if it's if it's very clearly signifies the source of a good or service. But as far as so if you're talking about that kind of infringement, you'll first want to see to where it's being infringed. So if it's on social media, a lot of infringement occurs on social media these days. So you're seeing things lifted and sort of misappropriated and reused on social pages reshared without permission not tagged that sort of thing. If you are experiencing that, sort of or even fake accounts being set up. If you're clearancing, that sort of infringement, I always say the best place to start is reporting directly through that service provider. So there's actually a law that says internet service providers are not responsible for infringement unless they're made aware of it and don't do anything about it. So that's why there are there are reporting systems through Instagram, through Facebook, through Twitter through Pinterest for that cause, you know, that will address trademark infringement as well as copyright infringement. Now with copyright You can also if you notice that somebody has like lifted a blog or you know, taking a photo of yours and displayed it on a website. What you can actually do is go look up that website information by doing a who is search, who is search will tell you who owns the domain name. Sometimes that domain name is hidden, but either way you go to the ISP, the internet service provider and you let them know, hey, my copyrighted material is being lifted and stolen without permission. And once you put them on notice, it's called a DMCA takedown. Once you put them on notice that internet service provider has to act, otherwise they can be held liable for the infringement.
Sara: And what about on websites when they have like terms and conditions? Let's say refund policies and privacy policies, are those important parts of protecting your IP your courses?
Kristen: Absolutely, I in turn, they can also really they help protect your business. If so, and your business, you know, encompasses your intellectual property, it's really important to have good terms and conditions and good privacy policies. reiterating, you know, our trademarks are owned by us, you know, you can't use them without permission, that sort of thing that's really important. But even more important is going to be within those terms and conditions within those privacy policies, letting people know exactly what they should expect when purchasing or buying or downloading any kind of material that you're offering through your website. A lot of mistakes that I see occur where they've sort of again, lifted something that they found online, and they they go, Oh, yeah, this is this looks good. This looks robust. And oftentimes, what I see is they take the one that looks like the the most lawyer II and then they have the actual official Exactly. And the problem with doing that is oftentimes, it's really official ones have been drafted by lawyers. And and they've been drafted by lawyers who want who are doing it specifically for that website. And so what a lot of people don't realize is the terms and conditions and privacy policies. Yes, there are general terms just like there are in all contracts, but you want it to be specific, as specific as possible and as tailored as possible to your business. Because if you don't do that, and you're using one that you're like, Oh, this one looks great. You could be you could be unknowingly subjecting yourself to additional liability by including things that maybe didn't apply to you, but increase, you know, the requirements of you. So you're like, Oh, well, I'm gonna put this in there. But you don't actually do what you said you put in there. Yeah, you're basically opening yourself up to live. Yeah, exactly. And I see that a lot with return policies. Because a lot of people don't they just say, no refunds or returns, but they're not really looking at what their business is doing. And when they say that they have, they have to understand, okay, well, if there's no returns, but someone drops out at it, let's say your program, if that makes sense. If you're it's a one time buy, right, so you're buying it, once it's sold, they get it, they download it, that's great. What happens when you're doing a course that's over a year long period, and you have somebody who gets really upset, and you're like, sorry, no refunds whatsoever, that can kind of set you up for not only negative reviews, but also you know, chargeback claims, things like that. So you want you want to make sure that you're understanding what it is that you're offering. So when you go to tailor things like your return policy, they make sense for your business, and you're sort of envisioning all possibilities, instead of just saying, well, this isn't something I want to deal with, I'll just take something that I know somebody else has done. And I'll say, Oh, this is this is good enough. I'll call it good, right?
Sara: And so when you have those like return policies in terms of conditions, do you think for course creators, and like anyone offering, let's say, group programs and things? Is it good enough to have it on the website? And they've available? Or do they actually need to have people like, check off that they've read it?
Kristen: Yes. So there is case law on this. And in the United States, by the way, so I'm I'm a California licensed attorney, I do practice intellectual property in all 50 states of the federally regulated parts of it. But I just want to make that really clear, because everything I'm talking about is US law. And I know they're made right and listeners that you're in Canada. So I know there may be something here. But it's important to understand that the laws will the United States laws will apply to you, if you're offering your course and your purchasers are in the US. So it's a good idea to also know a little bit about what's going on in the United States, even if you're based out of Canada, or another country. So in terms of your chargebacks, your policy for returns and things like that. I think it makes sense to look at what it is that you're trying to do, and make sure that those provisions are clear and fit your business. But really importantly, there is case law on this. Where if you if you just put it up on your website, and you say well, it was on my website, you're going to be battling out whether or not that person actually read it. There is a there is sort of a personal responsibility argument to be made that you should know to read the terms and conditions but the fact that Matter is a lot of people don't. And so what, what's recommended is that when you purchase when you actually go to purchase something, there should be a box that says, I have read the terms and conditions that they're required to take. Yeah, I also think it's a good idea that once they've signed up, they get reminded, again, hey, you're reminded, we don't give refunds, this is something so it's always a good idea to give them as much as Don't, don't hide the what's it called, like, like, hide the sausage, right? Don't Don't, don't don't like, if you don't want to give returns, then make that really clear and make it really clear in a multitude of places. Don't be like, well, I put it once on my website, you should have read that. Because now you're just going to be battling it out with somebody, if you want as little issues as possible, make sure that your terms are very, very clear. And terms and conditions, I might I want to remind everybody that Terms and Conditions don't have to be really complicated or confusing. You can use real language, you can use words that everybody can understand and your terms and conditions, you just want to make sure that you're covering all of the things that need to be covered.
Sara: I love that you said that because I think about specifically I guess because I do, you know, email copywriting with people who are launching, I think I'm always telling them then like clear is kind we want to tell people what they're opting in for. We want to tell them that they're opting in to actually our newsletters as well. And I know that depends, of course, in what country you're in, like sort of the rules around that. But the more open, we can be about it in truth we can bet it the more we're actually getting people who understand, and there aren't any sort of gray area, so it feels icky, or sneaky or anything, right. Like that's similar with this.
Kristen: Yeah, absolutely. And you know, it's really it. At the end of the day, even when you're productizing a service, I still think of you as a service provider. Right? I still think of you as a human being. Yeah. And so the more we can humanize, yes, we are productizing services, yes, you are selling a course, yes, you're packaging it up for someone to buy. But there is still a human element to it. And that's why people are wanting to buy these courses, because it feels, you know, you're getting that instruction, you're casting that wider net from a human being. And so the more we can humanize the tech portions of this in a way that doesn't feel like, well, I'm buying this thing, I'm never going to hear from this person again. And they don't really care about me. But if as long as we can get away from that, I think you know, your overall, it's going to make any issues that do arise, much more easy to deal with, because let's face it, there will be issues, issues always come up. When selling something online, there's always going to be somebody who isn't happy. And the way you deal with those issues, you know, really should inform what your policies and procedures should be that you actually write down that you actually convey to the public.
Sara: I love that you talked about humanizing, because I think that is such so important. And that as no three people want to automate. And I realized, like, I'm a launch strategist, I want people to automate things, too. But but also like, you do need to build in those human connections, because that's when you build relationships. And that's when you actually help people. And we need to remember that we're taking people's money, and that they've made an investment in us. And we don't know where that came from, do they come from their savings? Do they have lots of doesn't matter if they've chosen to make that investment into us? And so us being really human and connecting with them and building a relationship? Even if it's an automated video with you talking to them, we still need to have those touch points, because I know we're all humans working together. I just think it's so important. I love that you brought it up.
Kristen: Yeah. And it also makes disputes much easier to resolve. Right? So a lot of people go, Well, you know, I can't afford a lawyer, it's too expensive. Well, think about how your deal, then the first step should be how am I approaching the people that are buying from me when they're when an issue comes up? Because the bigger of an asshole that you are, or the more strict that you are? Or the more you're like, sorry, you know, I know that that mistake was mine, or maybe my tech crashed, but no refunds, you know, it's like, well, now. So now your contract is going to get tested because somebody is going to be upset enough about that. To say no, enough is enough. I don't want to pay you. And so yes, there are costs, you know, and look, I'm not saying that there aren't situations where the business is definitely in the right. And there are, you know, situations where people are trying to take advantage that happens, that absolutely happens. But it I really do feel like the business isn't a typically a company, a business is in a better position to set the stage for handling disputes in a way that will lower your overall legal liability and risk than then than relying on the purchaser to do.
Sara: Yeah. And I think, to speak to your reputation, like in the end, I know I've talked to clients like if they want a refund, I generally say give them a refund. Like they're happier unless you can try to solve it but If not, they tend to be happier than they talk. Like when else someone else brings you up, they're going to remember that they're not going to say, Oh, I actually hated their product, right? They're gonna still leave with a good feeling right part ways, let's say is no friendly, in friendly ways.
Kristen: Right? So what I always say is, that's why I think it's really important to stick to your policies, because what don't want to do is say, no refunds, and then in your policy, and then and then decide to, you know, sort of relax that rule, and yummy and selectively enforce it. Because if you see one enforce enough, what you can actually do from a legal standpoint is invalidate your no refunds provision. So when you say, because you're you've basically said, no refunds, except when I want to give refund refunds.
Sara: So just speaking, you brought up templates a couple of times and people buying templates online. How do we know what let's say we're not ready, or some people aren't ready to go hire a lawyer yet? How, like, where can they find templates that are actually okay to use, let's say as a starting point?
Kristen: Well, I think that there are so there are, first of all, a lot of lawyers out there that have sort of template banks and resource banks and things like that. But I again, it all depends on whether or not you're getting instruction on how to use the template. So a template is useless unless you know how to apply it appropriately. And so it's important that you understand the provisions in a template. So if you're working on a independent contractor agreement, for example, because that's a lot of people look for those templates, independent contractor agreements, really what you want to look for is someone in your state. So if you're in the United States, you really want to make sure that that independent contractor agreement is specific to your state. Because if it's not, you could be inevitably or inadvertently walking into a trap. California is one of the strictest states when it comes to hiring independent contractors. We recently had, we had an Assembly Bill 85, that was passed, which basically makes it nearly impossible to hire an independent contractor in your business. And so you have to be incredibly careful when putting together your contracts for that. So if you go to a lawyer that offers templates, and they're like, I have templates for everything in every state, and I'm licensed in Arizona, I'm immediately going to question whether or not that independent contractor agreement is one that you should be buying as a California business. Because especially if it doesn't come with instructions on how to make it California specific. But that is a way and And oftentimes, that's another caution that I give to people because they often think I can't afford a lawyer. So I'll go spend five to $700 on a template agreement for a with.
Sara: Yeah, cuz you're not like 50 bucks or still like hundreds of dollars. Yeah.
Kristen: Yeah. And they don't realize that there are actually lawyers who will do it for that price. So.
Sara: So I love that you call that out? Yeah.
Kristen: So um, you know, and including myself, including my firm, so our firm, you know, our firm, those those agreements, they start at 750. And they go up from there, and you're getting an actual lawyer working with ya something for actual, your business. Exactly. And a lot of times, another misstep that I see is they get the template and they go, Okay, so what I'm going to do is I'm gonna buy this template, and then I'm going to hire the lawyer just to get like, do a quick review of it, and make sure it looks okay. But the problem with doing that is, it oftentimes takes more work and time for a lawyer to take someone else's work product, and revamp it and make sure that it's what they want, you'll end up paying more to buy the template and then go to a lawyer and have them edited than you would to just have the lawyer do the agreement in the first place. So there, there are certain things that I would say are if you have a good degree of knowledge, if you if you understand terms in contracts, there are certain things that you can say, Okay, well, I feel comfortable enough that I could maybe take this agreement and and repurpose it, especially if you've been in a space for a really long time, like a vendor's agreement. For example, if your vendor sends you a contract, and you're like, reading it over, and it looks, it looks like it has everything that you want in there. So that's literally why we get paid what we get paid is because we think about all of the issues that could come up. And then we put safeguards in place to, you know, protect against those things. Right.
Sara: So, Kristen, what do you wish more online business owners actually knew about this whole IP process and protecting their assets? Overall.
Kristen: one of the I think the top in terms of intellectual property, I think the top thing I want people to know is that even though in the United States, you don't need a registration in order for it to be protected under the law, registration gets you so many more benefits than not registering that it doesn't make sense to not invest that money in your in your groundwork, lay the groundwork and secure Hearing your copyright registrations and your trademark registrations for inventors and get that patent going, I know it's an investment. I know it costs money to do it, even but, but there are ways to do it yourself. You don't have to be a licensed attorney to file a copyright application. And there are plenty of people who do it by themselves. And they do it successfully, you don't have to be a lawyer to file a trademark application, there are plenty of people who do it and they do it successfully. It's just a little bit of hard, it's a lot, it's a lot of work. There's a lot of nuance and intricacy to it. And that's why lawyers go to law school to learn this stuff. And practitioners practice it for a long time. But it doesn't mean you can't do it, there are circulars available online with the copyright office. And there are videos available with the United States Patent and Trademark Office to teach you how to do these things. But they're confusing, they're not easy. So if you don't have the money, if the money is the, if the mental block is the money, then at least take the steps to educate yourself from the government sources, the resources that are offered by the government as a starting point. And then you can narrow down what it is that you need from there.
Sara: And of course, there's your workshop, protect your assets, where you can go and learn more about the differences between copyright and trademark as a starting spot to, to educate yourself. And I think, probably a lot easier than reading, at least from my perspective being there was a lot easier than reading through government resources.
Kristen: Yeah. And it also it also goes further than just this. So a lot of those resources, the government resources online tell you about registration itself. So it's like, this is how you put the application together? And what more importantly, is why? Why should I Why should I register it? And how do I identify what is the most important thing to register first. And that's really what that my workshop goes into, is helping you identify what the most important pieces of your intellectual property, intellectual property portfolio are, so that you can then take those that list of things that you have, and you can tackle the registration process based on what you think is most valuable, as opposed to just sort of the shotgun approach, which can often be more expensive. So it helps you prioritize, identify, prioritize, so that you can eventually protect well, Kristin, thank you so much for joining us today. I'm so excited that you came on to the launch boot podcast, and talked all about IP and helped like, really, honestly open our mind to the possibilities, and some and then call those mistakes that are commonly being made so that we can correct them and really protect our stuff.
Sara: Everything about her will be in the show notes to check out. Thank you so much for joining us today.
Kristen: Yep, and then the workshop. For your podcast listener, I'm going to be giving a 10% discount on the workshop amazing things overall. So if they decide that they want to buy that, I know that you're we'll put that information about where to purchase it in the show notes.
Sara: Absolutely. And definitely go check it out. It is so mind blowing what you can actually protect and really made me think as I've been creating, like what the membership that I have around launching how I'm going to think about protecting that in the future because it's something I had not considered before I'd even met you. So I really appreciate that eye opening experience.
Kristen: Well, thank you so much for having me. And I really appreciate you coming to the workshop and also appreciate your help with with launching the workshop. And I love getting to see your launch acumen and you know, because you've you basically saved my butt.
Sara: So thank you, Kristen.
Kristen: Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it.
Sara: Thanks for tuning in to the launch playbook podcast. If you want to get weekly launch secrets in your ears. I hope you'll hit subscribe on iTunes so you'll never miss an episode. Because who knows? It could reveal just a thing you've been looking forward to make your next launch a success. And be sure to leave a five star review in iTunes telling me how this episode inspired your launch plans. Until next time, keep putting your big ideas out into the world. I'm rooting for you.
Learn more about The Launch Playbook Club