Thursday, January 31, 2008

Showing Your Stuff...


A promise is a promise! Thank you so much for voting on my poll. It will help tremendously. If you have not done so yet, please do. There is still time. Your input is INVALUABLE. Don't forget, the seminar Intellectual Property 101: Copyrights, Trademarks & Patents will be offered Monday, February 11, 2008 from 12 - 1 PM. Even if you have taken a seminar from us before, you will learn something new! The focus is truly going to be on economical ways to protect your works.

To thank you for your help, this blog is dedicated to those who plan on showing their works at either CHA Winter 2008 (or Surtex, etc.). Our firm gets these questions often. It is also why we are so busy at this time of year. This list is not exhaustive, but it is a start.

**Please remember that each situation is different. These tips are "generally speaking." Common sense rules apply. If you don't feel comfortable, don't share and when in doubt...leave it out!***


If you have an idea, product concept or technique that you would like to "shop around" then please be aware that ideas, product concepts, and techniques are generally protected by a patent. If you do not have a patent (and I am not going to lie, they can be expensive), then your next option is a Confidentiality Agreement. Ideas, Product Concepts and Techniques are protected by patents and if you don't have a patent, the general rule is that your idea can be taken. In the real world, please know that many times inventors or artists shop their ideas around before they get a patent just to see if the expense of a patent is worth it. However, they do so with a Confidentiality Agreement or at their own peril. The key is knowing who you are showing your work to and don't be afraid to get references! There are honest and reputable people in our industries...just proceed carefully.


If you are like most artists, then your best work for a show comes about 24 hours before the show begins! As well, most artists exhibit a large array of their work (old and new)at these shows. An artist never knows what piece of art (big or small) will help them land the big deal. Therefore, more is better!

The ultimate way to protect your art from being stolen is to keep it locked in a closet and never show it. That would defeat the purpose of a show. Honestly, there is no way to protect your artwork from being infringed upon or stolen. There are ways that artist can deter such actions when it comes to shows. An important reminder and one of the "cheapest ways" to protect your work- always stay true to your "style." If you have a recognizable style, it deters others from trying to copy it for fear that they will get caught quickly!

COPYRIGHT REGISTRATION! That is the key to help protect your artwork when you show it at a show. If you have time in advance, then make sure you submit the registrations before you go. If you don't have time, then make sure you do so IMMEDIATELY after you return. In most cases you may have up to 3 months after your first publication to register your artwork. However, in most cases artists show a mix of old and new work at a show. The "old" work generally does not have the 3 month grace period. Its tricky, but a quick look at the US Copyright Office website or a call to your Intellectual Property Attorney should be able to answer most questions.

While individual registrations for each piece of work is is not practical in most situations. Collection Registration is a start and a great way to get most of your work protected in the most economical manner possible. You will want to check out our blog on Collection Registrations to find out more information. Collection Registrations generally do not mean your entire booth in one copyright registration form. So know the rules! Copyright Registration will give you the chance to defend your work, seek damages and possible attorney fees (which can be the most expensive part of defending your work usually) if done in a timely fashion. The important issue is TIMELY FASHION!


This is the ultimate goal - GET PEOPLE TO SEE YOUR WORK. However, what do you do with them when you get them to visit? There are tons of great seminars and offerings to help you with the marketing end. However, legally speaking, there is one great thing that you can do...GET THEIR CONTACT INFORMATION. This also helps when it comes to the marketing end as well. It is great for everyone! Have a sign up sheet on your table for people to request more information. If you hand someone a portfolio page/ information sheet, then make sure you get a business card. The key is getting names and information.

Why are names important? If your artwork gets taken, then it will be important to prove access to your work. Lists of people who had access to your work, generally end up being very useful. Please, this is not saying that people who want your portfolio page/ information sheet are out to steal your work. FAR FROM IT. For many reasons, it is a great idea to have the contact information for people to whom you give your information to. A final note on the issue of visitors, don't be afraid to write information down about the person on the back of their business card even when they are standing there. No one will fault you for it and it is a great mind "jogger" later on.


Here are a few final tips that will help for many reasons, including legal ones. The list isn't exhaustive and comes from a legal perspective. I do have to admit that I have significant trade show experience, so that may come out as well.

  • Take a picture of your booth when it is complete. It's always a good idea to have a picture of your booth, what you displayed, etc.
  • Keep a copy of the Show Catalog and any other information passed out about your booth. This is information that participants receive from the sponsoring organization. Don't forget the website information as well! That is easy to download.
  • Bring copies of your booth contract, shipping information, a few extra shipping labels, and any other paperwork you have on the booth. Originals are ok, but copies are better in case something gets misplaced. One never knows when he or she will need it (or need to ship something home!).
  • Keep a copy of every piece of literature that you made available to the public. Keep this at home and put it in a file before you leave. Having one copy of marketing materials for reference is essential on many fronts and filing it away before you leave will make sure you have it later!
  • Keep notes during the show...a little notebook will help later on. You never know when you may need it.
  • DO NOT sign any contracts or agreements at the show. In the flury of excitement or activity you may be inclined to "sign right away." This is a BAD idea for a multitude of reasons. Now...if you have been working on an agreement before the show, then by all means...seal the deal. However, if someone offers you a deal right then and there and expects you to commit, proceed with EXTREME caution. You may hear the story about presenting it to a buyer at the show, etc. It may be "ok" to have them show it to a buyer, but do not make any promises or commitments.
  • Have your professional team's phone numbers handy. It pays to have your professional team in place and have their numbers handy in case of questions. Your professional team may include your agent, attorney(s), accountant, insurance agent, massage therapist or anyone you rely on. For example, every show we set aside time (and it is always used) for questions that come up during the show. Our clients (and some new ones that we meet at the show) give us a call and we work to solve the issue at hand. Sometimes it helps to have an extra ear of someone who has been there. Another excellent resource in a pinch is your fellow exhibitors. Please know that most of the people you will meet at CHA, Surtex, and the like have been in your shoes and are happy to help.

We wish you success beyond your wildest dreams in this the "Convention Season." We will be a the CHA Winter Show, but due to safety concerns are a little hesitant to pass out our cell phone number on a blog. However, if you click the link to our website we will be checking messages and/or email periodically throughout the show. Even if you just want to say "HI", we would love to meet the close to 2,000 readers of our blog a day!

Thank you again for your help with our poll! We will be blogging again after the 14th of February, so enjoy your "time off" or catch up on some back blogs!

Create with Your Heart and Your Head!



Rebecca said...

Hey Tammy! Sorry I didn't get the chance to meet you at the show. I have a "which came first, the chicken or the egg?" question for you.If an artist thinks they are close to licnsing a product with a manufacturer, should they hire an attorney first, before ideas are exchanged and negotiations begin? Or should they wait until they have some sort of contract/offer in hand and then bring in the legal eagles?


RayneScraps Designs said...

Very elightening blog..thank you!

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The Fine Print!

Since there may be legal discussions going on...there must be a disclaimer!

This blog is for educational and information purposes only. It does not constitute the practice of law. The attorney who writes this blog is only licensed in the State of Ohio and Michigan. There is NO attorney-client relationship of any type. You must sign appropriate documenation and have appropriate new client counseling to be a client of Browning-Smith, P.C. Each and every situation is different and all readers must seek his or her own legal counsel. The information on this blog is not guaranteed for any purposes nor is it to be relied on.