General Counsel’s Corner for the Small Business: Getting Show Ready, Part 1 of 2

It’s finally that time of year again: after a long break, automotive trade shows are back on the market. After a virtual version in 2020 that was virtually non-existent, SEMA returns in person this November. Leading up to that, there are a lot of pre-shows, as well as Walmart’s private show in August and the Automechanika Show in Germany in September, which is the largest automotive trade show in the world.

While we’re not quite to showtime yet, most of the work preparing for SEMA actually takes place between April and August. There is a huge amount of pent-up effort going into this year’s shows as well, so you want to have completed the proper prep work to be able to stand out from the crowd. Across two blogs, we are going to be highlighting the essential role that copyrights, trademarks, and patents play in getting you show ready.

When it comes to copyrights, the biggest barrier to getting show ready is the photographs and catalogs you are going to be using to sell your new products. In the months leading up to the show, are you taking the few minutes it takes to copyright the photos and catalogs that you are about to share with the world? Are you going to protect your materials against your competitors?

As decided by the Supreme Court, a copyright must be registered in order to be enforced – that is, to file a lawsuit against someone who steals your stuff. If a competitor is using your photos or your instruction manual to sell their product, you cannot file a lawsuit against them without having earlier copyrighted your materials. This is not just an empty threat, either – it happens all of the time. We’ve seen someone take the exact same catalog as one of their competitors, just change the words, and hand it out on the show floor across from the original creator.

You want to have copyrighted your material by the time of the show not just for the lawsuit filing, but because it gives you power at the event. If a competitor is using your copyrighted material, you can have their booth immediately taken down off of that alone. The time to get working on this is now. It takes six months to copyright something, or three months if you choose to expedite the process. Make sure your original material is copyrighted this summer so it is enforceable from the day you arrive at the show.

At Aftermarket Law, we have a sophisticated understanding of the automotive aftermarket. If you need your materials copyrighted or you would like help getting ready to blow the competition away this show season, contact Aftermarket Law today. If you made it, we protect it!

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