All businesses have tangible assets: buildings, machines, and
accounts receivable. Companies have intangible assets too: trademarks,
patents, copyrights, reputation, and goodwill. These intangibles
sometimes defy valuation, but may be worth more than the building and
machines used to make a company’s product.
SEMA places a high premium on the protection of trademarks, patents,
and copyrights, also known as intellectual property (IP). We will
describe these types of IP, the benefits of getting a mark or patent
registered with the appropriate federal authorities, the application
process, and the benefits of registration. We will also discuss some
tools for stopping imports of counterfeit or confusingly similar
The aftermarket industry thrives on creativity. What is new can
also be subject to quick adaptation in the presence of fierce
competition. This may be the product itself, but also could apply to
unique packaging, slogans, logos and other materials used to promote
the product. If intellectual property rights (IPR) exist, the owner
must take steps to claim and then enforce those rights.
Sometimes a company mistakes a “fair-use” adaptation as
infringement. More frequently, the company inadvertently has allowed a
knock-off by failure to register IP with the proper authorities.
Sometimes it falls into a gray area, and it is up to a court or other
party of jurisdiction to distinguish between fair-use or infringement.