It goes without saying that those looking to start their own business must perform their due diligence from choosing the best organizational structure and executing the necessary leases to finding the right employees and implementing an effective market strategy.
Another element of successful business planning is, of course, determining whether there is any possibility that a product or service could infringe on existing intellectual property, including trademarks, copyrights and patents. Indeed, any failure to do so could result in costly and prolonged litigation further down the road.
By way of illustration, consider a recently filed lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Austin by the Salt Lick, a famed Texas-based barbeque restaurant chain, against Salt-Lick Sausage Co., a small outfit located here in Georgia, alleging both unfair competition and copyright infringement.
According to the federal lawsuit, the Salt Lick’s three restaurants in central Texas generate over $25 million in annual revenue and serve millions of customers per year, a significant percentage of which are from out of state. Furthermore, it alleges that the restaurant, which started back in 1968, does over $1 million per year in online sales and has built a reputation over the years for providing “quality goods and services.”
In the complaint, Salt Lick essentially requests that the Salt-Lick Sausage Co., which began operating under the name since 2007, be prevented from using terms like “Salt Lick,” “Salt-Lick Sausage Co.,” and other similar names or marks in any and all promotions relating to food products and restaurant services.
In addition, the restaurant chain requests that all existing promotional materials (displays, advertisements, signs, etc.) bearing the Salt-Lick Sausage Co. name be destroyed and that ownership of Salt-Lick Sausage Co.’s Internet domain name be surrendered.
While Salt Lick indicated it hoped to reach “an amicable agreement moving forward,” it appears uncertain, at least for the moment, how the Salt-Lick Sausage Co. will respond.
In light of the stakes involved in intellectual property litigation, those considering starting their own business should strongly consider speaking with an experienced legal professional who can help their operation get started on the right foot and grant them peace of mind about the future.