Time to Investigate
When investigating intellectual property, you are doing so to ensure you’re not buying lemons that don’t exist, are expired, are near expiring or have third-party infringement rights. Although it would be awesome for IP validation to be the responsibility of the seller—it’s not; and there will be no one to blame but yourself if you don’t perform some research.
IP attorneys will tell you there are a few things to keep in mind when investigating IP:
Website Domain Names – Go to the official Whois website (link in reference section) and type in the domain name. Whois will offer you up domain information such as when the domain name was registered and when it’s expiring—or if it has defaulted and how long ago.
Ownership – Do some research on whether the IP is leased, licensed or owned. For example, say the business owner is offering you rights to a television commercial he’s run for years and, upon investigation, you find it holds a copyright from the advertising company—the business owner doesn’t really own that commercial, so you’re paying for nothing.
Authenticity – No matter what the IP is, a patent or trademark, you can research it. If it’s a patent, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office allows people to search patents and trademarks to ensure validity. If the IP is a state registered trade name, seek out the local Corporation Commission or Public Regulatory Commission—most have searchable business name websites.
IP Rights – It’s also important to research if any type of IP you’re paying for has an expiration date that can’t be continued. For example, if the IP offered has a use limit of ten years and you’re buying it in its eighth year, you’re really only getting two years of that IP.
Third Party Infringement – What if the IP offered infringes on another patent or license? You must take the time to investigate these types of IP. Examine court records on as many levels as you can, including county, city, and state, to see if there are any lawsuits pending against the infringement on the offered IP.