Ep 494: How To Protect Your Personal Brand with Autumn Witt Boyd



In an industry that seems to shift and change daily, it might feel impossible for business owners to keep up with their legal requirements.

You need a legal team who will guide you, help you create a big-picture strategy, and take the time to understand your long-term goals before jumping into your legal projects.

Enter Autumn Witt Boyd, an IP attorney who helps online CEOs build sustainable, profitable companies.

As the founder of Autumn Witt Boyd (AWB) Firm, Autumn specializes in helping business owners protect what they’ve built, and she joins us today to walk you through the steps you need to take to protect your personal brand.

From the what, why, and how of intellectual property to trademarks, copyrights, contract templates, and more, this episode covers it all!

No matter where you are in your entrepreneurial journey, you will find immeasurable value in this conversation, which outlines everything you need to know to safeguard your personal brand today.


  • How Autumn created this niche for personal brands in the legal industry.
  • Defining copyrights, trademarks, and the difference between the two.
  • Reasons that personal brands don’t necessarily need a lot of registered trademarks.
  • Two ways to apply for a trademark in the United States.
  • Common copyright and trademark mistakes that business owners make.
  • Why it’s crucial that you do thorough research before registering your business.
  • Practical advice for protecting the title of your book.
  • Things you need to know to safeguard your website, content, and services.
  • What to do when you discover that someone has copied your work.
  • Contracts as the most important legal foundation for your business.
  • Insight into non-disparagement clauses and what constitutes defamation.
  • Recommendations and best practices regarding the ‘noncompete regulation’.
  • How to stay up-to-date with legal requirements without an attorney.


“We’re big on ROI here at [AWB] Firm. I never ask people to spend money on legal protection that’s not going to do something to benefit their business.” — @AutumnWittBoyd [0:08:56]

“If you have something that’s a key asset in [your] business (a signature course, a signature talk, something that would have an impact if someone copied it), we highly recommend registering that with the US copyright office.” — @AutumnWittBoyd [0:21:00]

“Any contract is better than no contract, even if it’s not perfect.” — @AutumnWittBoyd [0:33:37]

“The way we approach legal protection – is proportional to the size of your business and to the risk of your business.” — @AutumnWittBoyd [0:35:50]

“[Legal support] should be in your budget just like [marketing or working with a bookkeeper or a CPA]. It is a cost of doing business. You cannot ignore it.” — @AutumnWittBoyd [0:44:40]

About Autumn Witt Boyd

Autumn Witt Boyd graduated in the top 10% of her class from Vanderbilt University Law School (a Top 20 law school) before ultimately landing as a senior associate at the premier copyright litigation law firm for photographers and stock photography agencies.

After spending the first 10 years of her career battling over copyrights and business issues in courtrooms across the U.S., Autumn left BigLaw behind to start the AWB Firm in 2015 so she could spend her days helping entrepreneurs build, protect, and scale their businesses the right way, instead of fighting with other lawyers.


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AJV (00:02): Hey everybody, and welcome to the Influential Personal Brand Podcast. So excited to get to interview a newer friend of mine, autumn Whit Boyd. And although we are just getting to know each other over the last several months we actually have a long history in common that we discovered at a Christmas party where her husband and I grew up in the same hometown, which Dalton, Georgia is a pretty small hometown, very small, so , and then you live in the same city as my brothers. And so there’s, there’s so many cool connections and I love to get to interview people that I also have personal connections with. But before I formally introduce you guys to Autumn, I wanna tell you what this episode is gonna be about and why you should probably stick around. Today. We’re gonna be talking about how to protect your brand, and we mean in a legal sense. AJV (00:52): So we’re gonna be talking about different things you need to know in terms of maybe trademarks, copyrights, just intellectual property in general, but then also it’s in the litigious environment that we tend to live in here in the United States of America. What do, what do you need to know that you don’t know? And so, again, this is kind of one of those episodes that doesn’t matter where you’re at in your journey, this is going to be helpful for you. It does not matter if you are a beginner or you are super established. I promise you, there is something that you’re like, oh, I’m so glad I listened today. I had no idea. So this is one of those episodes you wanna stick around for. So let’s me formally introduce you to Ms. Autumn with Boyd. So Autumn is the founder and owner of a WB law firm, which in my opinion is really a law firm really built for personal brands. AJV (01:47): Now I’ll let you define that in a second, but I think that’s really important because I think that you have a really cr you have created a really unique niche in the market that you cater to the individual, the solopreneur, the entrepreneur, the small business owner who also has some sort of, you know, personal brand as a part of their business. And anything from contract templates to custom built contracts, to just even strategy on your ip, which is one of the things we’re gonna talk about today. This is a really unique business model that you have created to cater to people like me and everyone listening today. So to help them get to know you a little bit, I would love to hear from you, how did you create this niche in the marketplace? Because it is different than most other attorneys and other firms that we have met, that we have talked to over the years, because you have a deep knowledge in the personal brand space. So how did that happen? AWB (02:50): Absolutely. By accident. It was not a grand plan. I quit my last job, hopefully we’ll never have another one. And started this firm in 2015. And I tried a couple different things. I tried working with startups. I tried working with creative, more creative entrepreneurs service providers. And what I found is I tried lots of different things, was that my favorite people to work with were these personal brands, mostly folks selling either education products, doing speaking a lot of coaches. So all of them had a deep mission at the kind of core of their business. So they wanted to build something bigger than themselves. They wanted to have an impact. And they were just energetic and creative and fun to work with. My background was as a copyright litigator, so I used to go to court and mostly worked with photographers and stock photo agencies. AWB (03:42): So I have a deep knowledge of copyright. And what I found was for these personal brands, you know, I ended up building a team that we can really do everything they need. The good news is the business model is fairly simple, even as it scales now, as it scales, the complexity of some of the legal needs becomes more significant. But you know, in the beginning there’s not a lot of revenue streams, there’s not a lot of moving parts and pieces. So it’s easy for us to come in and really make a big impact with not a huge amount of, you know, legal spend or a lot of you know, complex legal protections. AJV (04:19): Yeah. So that’s a great opening to this conversation, and I love that you went to, like, you were in litigation for different copyright. Like yeah, that’s one of the biggest things that I think our audience, it’s just unaware about. And I think it’s, ’cause it’s one of those things where there’s just a lot of nuance to what can you copyright, what do you trademark, but what should you copyright? Yes. Or what should you trademark? So can you just like, define it, like what’s the difference between a copyright and a trademark? AWB (04:51): Yes. So we’ll dig in. So when we think about copyrights, think about content. So if you have a curriculum or a framework, things that you teach, a signature talk that you give all of that is going to be protected by copyright. Also, things that you think of more as like true art. So photos, sculptures, paintings, movies, music, all of that is covered by copyright. When we think about a, a trademark, think about a brand. So it could be your name if you are the personal brand, we certainly have helped some of our clients register their names as trademarks. Often it is the name of a signature concept, or it could be the name of a business. If you have a signature course or offering, it could be that name, it could be a podcast name. Anything you think of that is attached to your company. So the purpose of a trademark is to help customers find you basically, and to know that when they find you, you are the thing they were looking for. So in a more traditional corporate sense, think of like Coca-Cola or McDonald’s. Like those are big, big brand names. So you know, when you get a Coke off the shelf, you know what you’re getting because it has that Coke branding on it. AJV (05:56): Oh, that’s a really great distinguishing factor. And I love how simple that is. It’s just like copyright is content, right? Yeah. And I think, and I love too, it’s like it’s, it’s, it’s art is considered into like photos and anything like that, but it’s the, the creation, right? So it’s what have you created, whereas trademarks or anything associated with the brand, so your name, company name, curriculum names, so titles, yeah. And ultimately helping define that you are who you say you are and helping other people find you. AWB (06:29): Yeah. There’s a little bit of overlap when it comes to logos. So think of like, Mickey Mouse is my favorite example here. You know, that is a creative work, but it also signifies the Walt Disney brand. But for most of the people in our space, you’re not really gonna have a lot of overlap. Logos are , usually. Pretty simple. AJV (06:46): So it’s interesting. So then with all of the people that you have worked with, like what do you think people should be like in our space? Right? So most of the people listening to this are in some sort of content creation Yeah. World, whether it’s you’re writing books or creating speeches, or you have coaching programs, consulting programs, or you’re just trying to come up with methodologies and frameworks for your existing business, right? So what should we be thinking about when it comes to, well, what should I go and get, you know, a trademark for what should I try to get a copyright for? AWB (07:20): Yeah. And I forgot to give my standard disclaimer, aj, which is, I’m a lawyer, but this is not legal advice, so I’ll plug that in. And I’m a bit of a contrarian when it comes to trademarks. So I really think for personal brands, the folks who are listening probably don’t need a lot of registered trademarks in their business. So what we usually recommend, we’ll kind of take an inventory when we start working with a new client, you know, what are the different brands you’re using in your business? And we’ll look at them and we try to prioritize what is making you money what is attached to something so that it’s really a business asset. Because a lot of our clients may have 10 or 15 different brands in their business. They may have slogans or things they say a lot. They may have, you know, various different offerings. AWB (08:04): But usually there’s one or two that bubble to the top of like, oh, if someone copied this, you know, it would really confuse my audience. Or like, I would definitely lose sales. So we kind of prioritize it that way. Is it making you money? Number two, are you going to stick with it for a while? Because in the United States, the trademark registration process is expensive and it takes forever . So right now, best case scenario is about a year from the day we file an application to the day it’s approved by the US PTO. That is not us being slow. That is, they are overwhelmed and understaffed and it’s just very slow. So I’m, we’re big on ROI here at our firm. I am never asking people to spend money on a legal protection that’s not really gonna do something to benefit their business. AWB (08:53): So I wanna make sure that you’re gonna stick with it long enough that waiting that time, spending a couple thousand dollars, usually if you’re working with a lawyer on a trademark registration, it’s not cheap. And you wanna do it the right way, very easy to mess up on your own. So I wanna make sure you’re gonna stick with it long enough to see some benefit from having that r in a circle. And then the last thing I always ask is, you know, would you be upset if it were copied? So sometimes there are things that aren’t necessarily a money maker, but they’re just very personal or you feel really attached to them. And so maybe it is, you know, if you do have the you know, extra funds in your business, it may make sense to register that just because you would be, you would feel very violated if someone else copied it. AWB (09:36): Mm. And what a trademark registration does for you, it gives you an easier way to enforce your rights. So if you’re not willing to send a cease and desist letter, if you’re not, if you don’t want to kind of become a little bit combative, now you don’t have to file a lawsuit, but to maintain a trademark registration, you have to enforce it. That’s one of the requirements. Or it will just basically become worthless. So you have to be monitoring the mar marketplace, seeing if anybody else out there is starting something similar. You gotta keep your eyes out. And then, and we do that for a lot of our clients and then you know, take appropriate action. So send a cease and assist letter or try and figure out, you know, can we coexist in this marketplace? Can you stay in your lane and I’ll stay in my lane? So the getting the registration is really just step one of a much longer process of protecting that brand. Yeah. AJV (10:25): So that’s a really good conversation. So registration is step one. ’cause You may not even get it right. Right. You may apply for it and be denied, but assuming you do get it, that’s really step one because then you have to have things in place to monitor the marketplace to see if any else is using it. And then you actually have to be willing, right. Both in emotion and in dollars Yes. To actually enforce it. So, and I love those questions. You said it’s like, Hey, is it making you money? Are you gonna stick with it? And would you be upset if somebody else was using it? And if the answer is yes to all of this, it’s gonna be a couple thousand dollars and a year and that stuff, or AWB (11:02): More, it could be two or three years depending on kind of some of the speed bumps that you may come across. AJV (11:07): Yeah. But they approve based on date of application date of when it was in use. How does that work? AWB (11:14): So there’s two ways you can file an application in the United States. One is you’re actually using the trademark. So that’s called an in use application. Those go the fastest. But you can also file an application if you’ve got an idea or something you’re planning to launch in the near future. And that’s called intent to use. So you go through the process and then you kind of hit a speed bump and you still do have to show you’re using it. So you can’t get to the finish line, but it will put you ahead of the line of somebody who comes after you to try and apply. But in the US it, the, the rights are all based on use. So we have what’s called a race system. So it’s a race to be the first to actually use your trademark in connection with selling something. So it’s not enough to just have a landing page up or a coming soon. You have to actually be using it in commerce. AJV (12:01): Yeah. So this is so AWB (12:02): Interesting. So it can get tricky. AJV (12:04): This is so interesting. So I have a question. So what about ’cause you mentioned slogans, but like, what about quotes? Mm-Hmm. . Like, is that a thing that people trademark? AWB (12:15): It can be. If it’s something now it has to be used in commerce and you have to prove that to the US patent and trademark office. And they have specific ways they wanna see you using it. So it has to be used kind of near where you’re selling something. So you’d have to use it on a sales page or you know, in a brochure that has a way that you can call and buy something. There’s different ways, but they’re always looking for you to use it in like an advertising or marketing way. It can’t just be, I say this thing on my podcast a lot. AJV (12:43): What if it was something that makes sense? What if it was something in your book? AWB (12:47): Yeah. So you’d have to show that you’re using that quote, not just in the book. It would have to be featured in, you know, again, like a pull quote on a sales page or something. Yeah. AJV (12:58): Interesting. AWB (12:58): It’s very strict. They’re very stringent. This is why a lot of applications get denied. And that’s why I always say, you wanna work with a trademark lawyer who knows what they’re doing AJV (13:06): To have it in the right and necessary places, but really they wanna see it. How is it being used for commerce? AWB (13:12): Yeah, exactly. That’s what trademarks are all about. Copyright, you know, it could absolutely be in the book and be protected, but it has to be you know, a a quote would be too short to be protected by copyright. It has to be considered a, a work. AJV (13:26): Fascinating. Does that AWB (13:27): Make sense? Yeah. AJV (13:28): So what, what do you see are the biggest mistakes that people are making when it comes to copyright and trademark? AWB (13:35): So, on the trademark side, since we’ve been talking about that, the biggest one is choosing a brand and then not checking to see if anyone else is already using it. Because again, we’re a race system. So if somebody else, you know, you come up with this really great slogan or brand idea, someone else is already using it. It doesn’t matter if they stay very tiny and you, you know, achieve this great success and huge exposure, they would still have what’s called priority. So they, they win the race, they could come after you, you know, years later after you’ve really built that brand invested time and money into promoting it. Okay. So, so we always wanna start with a nice, fresh, clean brand that is really just yours that you can own. AJV (14:19): Agreed. So what should people be doing to go, oh shoot, is my stuff already being used out there? Like, where’s like the safest place to check? How would we do that? AWB (14:29): Yeah, so I usually recommend a couple. You can do these on your own. Now we have a paid tool that we use at the law firm. So if you wanna register your trademark, we’ll do a deeper search. But you can absolutely do it on your own. I always start with a Google, but go to like page five or six, like do a deep Google check any social media platforms that you may be using. So if you plan to be on LinkedIn, go check LinkedIn and see if that brand pops up when you search. Same if you intend to start a podcast, go check the podcast players, type in the brand, see what pops up. And then also the US Patent and Trademark office. But there are so many unregistered marks that could still cause you problems because in the US you can have what’s called common law rights, even if you never register your trademark. AJV (15:12): What’s that? AWB (15:14): So it just, it, you can file a lawsuit, you can take action to protect your brand, even if it’s not registered. It’s a state law, right? So it’s not quite as strong as, you know, the federal rights that you get when you register your trademark. There’s definitely advantages to registering. But there are people out there with common law rights that can cause you problems. So again, that’s why we wanna make sure we search and we see it’s not just the registered ones that could cause us problems. AJV (15:41): Yeah. So back to this litigious environment where anyone can file a lawsuit for anything for any reason. AWB (15:48): Correct. AJV (15:49): Yeah. That’s, thanks Americans that is that is definitely something to be on the lookout for pros AWB (15:56): And cons for sure. AJV (15:57): Yeah. And I, and I love that it’s like, do a Google search, you know, go through podcasts, right? Search, you know, apple, iTunes clearly the US Patent and Trademark office social media platforms what about Amazon? Like, should we be searching like Amazon for book titles, or does that really matter? AWB (16:16): So a single book title is never a trademark. Okay. But if you’re doing a series of books that can, because book titles are generally, you know, not really a brand when you think about if you’re looking for something Sure. Yeah. But if you have a book and a course that goes with it, or if you have a book and you know, a workbook or a series of things okay. That can’t, now there there is confusion among book titles, but I mean, I’m sure you’ve noticed if you search up a book title, there may be five different books with the same title. That’s pretty frequent. AJV (16:45): Yes. Or I usually don’t just like one word different. Yes. Yeah. AWB (16:48): I usually don’t worry too much about that if the plan is just to make it a book. Okay. Now, if you’re planning on making it a, a big brand, you may wanna consider choosing a different title ’cause you don’t want that confusion. AJV (16:58): So I wanna be clear really quickly. So using my husband as an example, who has his first book Take The Stairs, which was a, a New York Times bestselling book. So you’re telling me right now if some other person today decided they wanted to write a book called Take the Stairs? They could. And it’s not a big, like, AWB (17:18): It’s not a violation of any rights. Yes, I know. AJV (17:22): But we have AWB (17:23): Authors don’t like that AJV (17:24): , but it’s good to know. Yeah. But we would also have this like, you know, common law, right? Where we could go, Hey, and potentially win something or No, AWB (17:34): Not for a book title. Book titles are, are generally never a trait. But if he has other things connected to it that could be become a brand. Like does he have a signature talk or like handouts or, yeah, so usually there’s like a, a universe that grows a, around something when it’s AJV (17:53): Fascinating AWB (17:53): A slash like that. AJV (17:54): I think this is a really unique and important topic for our, the brain AWB (17:58): Vendor for sure. AJV (17:59): Right. for this. Because it’s like, if you’re gonna write a book and have a book title, then you also need to have a keynote for sure that if have least AWB (18:06): Like a freebie. And a lot of people do this in publishing now. You know, you buy the, you buy the book early, you get some sort of online resource. Yeah. AJV (18:14): I AWB (18:15): You’re very familiar with that, aj. AJV (18:16): I know that and that’s why I’m asking. ’cause I just like, out of all the things, like this is something, it’s like, hey, it’s like if you’re gonna write a book, then you need to make sure you have, you know, the coordinated keynote speech to it. You wanna have some sort of like, Hey, free download it, you can get ahead. Yeah. And they, and they all need to have the same title. Correct. And then in that regard, if you had your, now it’s AWB (18:34): A AJV (18:34): Brand. Now it’s a brand. So now we can go and try to trademark trademark it. Yes. AWB (18:38): Exactly. Yep. AJV (18:40): Y’all deal. And this is always AWB (18:41): Something, a big deal, and this is always something I negotiate when my clients get book deals, is making sure that they own the trademark to the title. Because that is not something that most publishing companies think about. AJV (18:51): Yeah. But that is a huge deal. AWB (18:53): It’s a valuable asset for sure. AJV (18:55): Yeah. If you’re gonna publish this book, then we need you to at least publish this free workbook that’s three pages that goes with it and have your keynote title the same thing. Now we have a brand, now we can go trademark it. And that’s a really AWB (19:09): Important thing. And now you can exclude other people. Yeah. Yeah. AJV (19:12): That’s so nuanced, but so vitally valuable for every single person who has listened to this, who goes, one day I wanna write a book. ’cause We do this thing. So we have what we call the five title tests. And a part of those tests is, one of them is the availability test . I like it. Is it already in use? Right? Yeah. But what you’re, because is like, we already like, we actually tell people, which now I need to be really on top of like how we’re explaining this. ’cause We, we actually say, Hey, if it’s already a pretty well like, bestselling book on Amazon, like AWB (19:47): I Yeah, no, I agree. I would avoid it. Yeah. AJV (19:49): Find, find a new title. But ultimately if it’s just that somebody else could go, no, I’m gonna go for it, I’m taking it. It’s true. AWB (19:57): Yeah. If you’re really connected to it. Yeah. AJV (20:01): But that’s a big deal. Yeah. You know, our whole thing is like, Hey, if they’re already taken, let’s find something that can be unique. No, AWB (20:08): I agree. AJV (20:09): I agree. For sure. But somebody could on their own go, wow, they don’t even have a website, they don’t have a podcast, they don’t have a thing, they don’t have anything else. I’m going for it and I’m gonna take it. Mm-Hmm. . Mm-Hmm. . That’s no joke. I mean, that’s kind of a big deal. Yeah. everyone back to why everyone needs to listen to this episode, it’s kind of a big deal. Now I know that we’ve been like specifically talking about like copyrights and trademarks, and that’s a teeny tiny part of what we really need to know to protect our brands. And so on. This whole idea of making sure things aren’t being copied, what should we know? What do we need to know in order to protect our website content, product services? Like what else do we need to know? AWB (20:55): Yeah. So when we think about most of those things, they’re gonna be protected by copyright, not trademark. And we, we’ve all probably heard you have automatic copyright protection as soon as you create a work. If you haven’t, good news, you have automatic copyright protection. As soon as it’s out of your brain, it has to be in a computer document or written or something. But in the United States, you cannot file a lawsuit until it’s registered. So it’s kind of the, the opposite of with trademark, you don’t have those common law rights. So if you have something, again, that’s a really key asset in the business, a signature course, a signature talk, something that would really have an impact. If someone copied it, we highly recommend registering that with the US Copyright Office. And it doesn’t mean you’re ever gonna file a lawsuit, but if you did have to send that cease and desist letter, you know, if I get a cease and desist letter and I check and it’s not registered, I’m like, I’m not really worried about it because I know they can’t really do anything. They, you know, it’s kind of an empty threat. Yeah. AJV (21:51): So that’s interesting. AWB (21:52): The good news is the copyright process is much simpler than the trademark process. So, and it’s really it’s almost the opposite. So with trademarks, they’re giving you a monopoly on that brand. So they’re very, they make it very difficult. It’s very hard to get through that process on copyrights. They want to encourage creativity. So the process is much simpler. I would still recommend working with an attorney, but if you want to try and DIY it, it’s pretty forgiving if you make mistakes. AJV (22:18): So what are some examples of things that people should get a copyright for? AWB (22:23): So an online course or curriculum? I have seen people do keynotes. Podcasts are hard to do because it’s episode by episode and that’s just a slog. It’s a lot of work and time and money books for sure. And if you’re working with a publisher, they may take care of that for you. They may not. That’s something to check your contract on whose job that is. But definitely, definitely a book. I’ve registered the copyrights to entire websites, especially if they have a, you know, a rich, you know, history of blog posts or really good content. Wow. so again, the analysis is, is it valuable to your business? Would it impact you if it was copied? AJV (23:04): That’s fascinating. So again, everyone who’s listening courses, books, yeah. AWB (23:10): We register a lot of courses. Yes. AJV (23:12): Yeah. And, and that’s a lot. The thing that, AWB (23:14): Yeah. The thing I will say, though kind of on the the flip side of this, people often ask, you know, how can I stop someone from copying my course? You can’t, you can’t actually stop someone. You can set yourself in a good position so that if and when it happens, you know, you can take action. But I usually tell people, don’t worry too much about it being copied. You know, go ahead and put some protections in place and then kind of put your blinders on. Mm-Hmm. . And, you know, if you are a personal brand, that is one of the wonderful things about working in this industry, is that people are usually coming to you because of your secret sauce. AJV (23:48): That’s right. AWB (23:48): It’s not just that they wanna learn about Facebook ads or they wanna learn how to garden or whatever the thing is that, you know, you’re teaching about. So it’s very hard for a competitor to just copy your content and have any kind of impact. Yeah. AJV (24:00): And I love that you said that. ’cause That is so true. It’s like they could go learn this anywhere else. They’re coming to you because they wanna learn it from you. Right. Right. And I love that you said that there’s a time and a place to go, Hey, let’s, let’s be wise and protect the things that are valuable assets that make you money, that have meaning to you, that, you know, whatever. But at the same token, remember at the end of the day, they’re coming to you because it’s you. And No, I love that. I think that’s a really good checkpoint of not creating panic , everyone who’s like, oh my gosh, AWB (24:35): Can be, it can be a huge energy drain. I’m sure you’ve seen this. Oh yeah. And it can be very dis very distracting and very upsetting when you find that you’ve been copied so it doesn’t feel AJV (24:45): Good. So, so on that note, so what do you do if you discover that you have, right? Like if somebody has copied your work, like what do you do? What should you, yes. AWB (24:56): Yeah. So step one is always create a record . So think about if you had to go in front of Judge Judy, what would you show her to prove that you had been copied? So that may be screenshots, that may be, you know, creating a fake account and, you know, downloading stuff like, you know, whatever you have to do to gather that evidence so that you can prove if you, you know, God forbid if you have to or just so you can attach it to, you know, if you have to send them a letter, you know, because things change, websites change. And it’s not because anybody’s doing anything shady. We just change things a lot. So gather that evidence before you reach out to the person before they know that they’re on your radar so that they can’t just take it down. AWB (25:39): And then step two, once you’ve got all that collected and organized depending on kind of how important it is and who it is, this may differ a little bit, but I like the idea of reaching out to the person before you involve lawyers and before you get really mean and strict about it. Mm-Hmm. especially if the person copying you is like a lot further behind you in business or is just starting Mm-Hmm. it is, it is kind of hard to believe that people don’t know better, but some people really don’t know better. And so, you know, I am a fan of giving them the benefit of the doubt reaching out gently and saying, you know, Hey, I noticed this. I’m sure you didn’t intend it. You know, would you mind taking it down or, you know, please attribute it to me. AWB (26:21): Like whatever in your eyes would make that feel okay. And I would say 99% of the time they’re super embarrassed. Mm-Hmm. And they will comply right away. They’ll either take it down, they’ll apologize. And then that 1% of times, you know, they may get their backup and say like, no, I created this. Or they’ll deny it. And sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes it’s a little more of a gray area, like they’ve copied your ideas, but they haven’t copied your exact words. And that’s where it becomes a little harder. But then sometimes we do have verbatim copying where they say, no, I’m not gonna take it down. And that’s when you probably wanna get a lawyer involved if it is something that is, again, valuable to you because lawyers are expensive. Yeah. so not everything is worth, you know, spending thousands of dollars on hiring a lawyer to help you with. But if it is something essential to your business, then that would be the next step to kind of ratchet things up. Yeah. Is get a lawyer involved who can help you. You know, sometimes people can say things accidentally that they don’t know could hurt them later. Uhhuh, as they’re trying to be nice and friendly. , AJV (27:22): Anything you say can, will be AWB (27:24): Used, can and will be used against you. Yes. AJV (27:26): But I think that, I love that where it’s like, you don’t have to go right to level 10 immediately send a cease and desist. It’s like, Hey, make the person aware. Ask them to take it down. Make sure you take the proof. Then it’s like there’s a system of escalation. Yeah. Yeah. To AWB (27:43): . It’s very rarely like jumping to a lawsuit. AJV (27:45): Which is good because nobody really wins in a lawsuit. The only, you know, I had, we were in a lawsuit once trying to get our IP back and you know, the lawyers were really upfront and they just said, I just wanna be upfront with you day one. You do not win here. The only people who win here are your attorneys, the lawyers. AWB (28:05): Yes. AJV (28:05): We just want you to know you. Even if we win, you’re not winning. We are winning. Right? Yes. And they were so correct and I was so appreciative of like, oh yeah, like, you won big time. You know? Yeah. Because it’s, it’s, it’s an emotional drain. It’s a financial drain. It’s a time drain, and it’s like, you better really be sure. Right. And, and also that should on the other side, people don’t wanna be involved in that on the other side too. Right. So I love your approach of most people are gonna be embarrassed and they’re, they’re gonna want to avoid that as well. So start with doing that before you involve attorneys. Now I do have a a, a personal question, and I’ll leave any names out of it, but in my husband’s first book, there’s a very famous quote Right. That he uses in, in his speeches in, in our courses and the book, it was just kinda like one of those signature pullout quotes. We call it the rent axiom, which is, you know, the rent is always due. And people really like that and took that. And AWB (29:10): This is his original Right. He didn’t borrow it from anyone else. Yeah, AJV (29:14): Yeah, yeah. And they took it and used it and quoted it and put it on t-shirts and put it on posters, shared it on national television and never cited it. Yeah. Now, I believe that some of these very well-known famous people probably didn’t know where it originally came from. They just heard it Right. From a, from a whomever. From a whomever, from a whomever. So what do you do in those cases where you’re like, Hey, like you are saying this and not giving yourself credit, but taking credit for it. What do you do in those cases? AWB (29:46): Yeah, I think again, you have to decide, like, is that impacting your business enough to spend the time and energy chasing it? And maybe it is, maybe this is something that’s really personal and means a lot to him, and that he wants to be attributed. I mean, I think if you see like memes and quotes, they are misattributed all the time. Totally. And so you’re definitely playing whack-a-mole at a certain point, trying to go after all the places that have, you know, cited that incorrectly. But there may be a couple, you know, if it’s Oprah, that you try and get in touch with their people and like, that’s a big platform I would like for this to be corrected. Yeah. And you know, especially if it’s a news organization or something like that where they do value correctness, accuracy, and Yes. Accuracy they may issue a correction. Now corrections are never helpful. Really. Yeah. , they, they’re never as prominent as the original thing. AJV (30:38): Yeah. That’s interesting. So you’re kind of just SOL kind of AWB (30:42): A little bit. Yeah. Again, we all have limited time and resources, so even though I’m a lawyer, like you could spend all of your time and energy chasing after this stuff, and most of the time it’s not really having an impact on your business. So I’d rather see you focus on growing the business, being proactive. AJV (30:58): Yeah. And I, and I love that because what it is having an impact on is your banking account with all that money coming out. Yes. Yes. So back to be selective, be protective, but be selective. Yeah. Right. I love that. AWB (31:10): Yeah. You don’t, not every battle is one you have to fight. AJV (31:12): Amen. I love that. So, okay. What else do we need to know to protect our brand? AWB (31:18): Okay. This is the one that nobody talks about. ’cause Trademarks and copyrights are sexier. But contracts are AJV (31:24): Really Yes. AWB (31:25): The biggest, most important. Yes. Like legal foundation. This is really, even though we’re IP lawyers here at the A WB firm, we spend almost all day, every day working on contracts that may touch IPN may not. Mm. So tell me how you see contracts coming up with your clients. Like where are, because I can, I can think of a couple, but I’m curious what you’ve see. AJV (31:47): You know what’s so interesting? I feel like most people wonder if they need them . Oh. And my response is yes. Always. Yes. If you’re collecting money for services, yes. You, you probably want one. And, but I think a lot of people really struggle with how much the laws are changing and how to stay on top of it. Like, you know, non-disparagement clauses are now illegal right now. There was that you know, just buildup past eliminating non-competes, AWB (32:20): I was about to say. Yeah. It’s, it’s AJV (32:21): In flux. It’s except for, except for right. Executives for X amount of periods. So there’s these nuances to it. And if you don’t live in the legal industry, which I do not, but I’m in the EO group with you, right? Yes. Entrepreneurs organization. And that’s just a really added bonus that people are always talking about these things. And I catch ’em really in the peripheral. Yeah. But for those of you who don’t, so like, this is a great example with this new non-compete walk. Does that mean that all of us as business owners need to go update all of our contracts today? Do we need to go and, you know, have previous signed assigned employment agreements refreshed? Like what do these laws mean? One thing that they passed, but then what are we expected to do? And if we don’t know because we’re not attorneys and we do have ’em in there, and then someone’s like, that’s illegal. Like, you know, so I think those are the nuances where I hear, I’m like, well, I didn’t know that. It feels AWB (33:19): Very overwhelming, best to AJV (33:21): Know that. And so I think it’s one, do I need a contract? But then two, it’s like, what do I need in the contract? And I’ll tell you the number one thing that people I hear from, at least our audience, is I don’t wanna 13 page contract and I want, I don’t want it to sound like some attorney wrote it. ’cause No one can understand that junk. Like, how do I get a normal everyday language agreement that I can understand and my clients can understand? Yeah. So, and that’s kind of hard to do. AWB (33:48): It is. So going back to the first question, a contract is better than no contract, even if it’s not perfect. So I will take an imperfect contract all day long. All a contract is doing is setting expectations between two people or two companies about what’s gonna happen, value that’s being exchanged, you know, if there’s money being exchanged services if you’re selling a course or curriculum or licensing your content to somebody else to use. So there’s still gonna be a lot of good stuff in there, even if you mess up some of the specifics. So, and most things will not go to court. So that’s the good news. Most of the time you’re negotiating with the other person if something goes wrong. So using a contract is better than not, even if it’s not perfect. Mm-Hmm. As far as keeping up with all of the changing things, I understand that is overwhelming. I have a resource to recommend, which is the a WB firm firm newsletter. So we send out a newsletter every week or so with these kinds of updates. So if you are in this industry you know, I can’t promise we’re gonna cover every single thing. But it’s a nice way to just get little, you know, snippets about things that could impact your business. And you’re not getting a bunch of junk that applies to like a giant corporation. It’s really focused. AJV (35:03): I give online business, I’m gonna give you a plug for this because I subscribed to this and the one that came out I think last week was are you mandatorily required to hand over sales recordings to your clients if they ask? Right. And I literally sent that to our VP of sales. I’m like, I need you to listen to this. Right. And it’s like, but it’s like, those are like things that wasn’t even on my radar, right? Yeah. And it’s like just subscribing to this newsletter. And just so you guys know, I’ll put this in the show notes. I’ll have all of the links for everything that you need and want and sh should do, even if you don’t think you do. But this one, if you go to awb firm.com/newsletter, a wb firm.com/newsletter, you can sign up for it. It’s free. But like, this is a great example of like, this is like things that I’m busy doing other stuff with. I’m like, AWB (35:58): Right, you’re not a lawyer, it’s not your job. AJV (36:00): Do we have to send these sales recordings and what are they gonna do with it? You know, so yeah. Little things like that I think are really, really valuable. Just a plug. Yeah. AWB (36:09): And the other thing I would mention is the way we approach legal protections and keeping up with all this stuff is proportional to the size of your business and to the risk of your business. So if you are just starting out, if you are getting your brand, your personal brand up and going, a lot of this stuff really doesn’t matter because you don’t have a lot of money in the business. You don’t have a lot to lose if you mess something up and you’re unlikely to be a target, frankly, for someone to sue you report you, you AJV (36:36): Know, bonus being a beginner. That’s AWB (36:38): Right. You’re, you’re, you know, little business, little problems . Yeah. When you have a bigger business, you got bigger problems. And that’s when you need to start paying attention to some of this more. Which the good news is you have more resources to Mm-Hmm. either hire an attorney, you know, have someone on your team monitoring this kind of stuff so that you can make sure that you’re compliant. Compliance matters more the bigger you get. AJV (36:58): Yeah. And I think that’s, so that’s so why so on some of these specifics, like just because these are things that I know have come up in our community a lot, like non-disparagement can’t do it. So at the same time though, AWB (37:12): In some scenarios, AJV (37:13): , right? So this is, so tell me, tell me if you think this is right nor wrong. So one of the things that we did with our agreements is we said yes of you. Okay, whatever non disparagement aren’t, you know, legal fine, but you can’t lie, right? So we just, we changed our clause not to, Hey, you can’t say anything negative about us. It’s, you cannot make false claims about us. Right? AWB (37:42): Yeah. AJV (37:42): So is that in line? Is that okay? AWB (37:45): Yes. And that was our, sorry, that was already illegal. Like that’s liable or slander saying things that are false. So what defamation clause is really out, if you have a defamation clause in a contract, what it prohibits is saying things that are true . Mm-Hmm. , but damaging or negative. So yes, but AJV (38:05): That’s, but that’s you know, one of the things that’s come up in my eo, it’s a AWB (38:08): Fine line. Uhhuh. AJV (38:09): . One of the things that’s come up in my EO group a lot is, well, their truth and the real truth are often different. How they feel Yes. Versus what happened are different. So what is that gray area? AWB (38:22): Yeah. So if you were gonna sue someone for liable or slander for defamation, it can’t be a feeling. It has to be a fact. So it has to, it has to be a false, you know, statement that you could test or verify. And it has to have a negative impact on your business, succeed. AJV (38:38): So succeed, lemme give you an example, succeed. Yeah. this was something that came up in like one of the like forum chat groups I’m in and they took a screenshot and somebody had put on like Yelp or Google reviews or something, worst business ever. Worst money I’ve ever spent. And it’s like really was is it really the worst business ever of all time? Is that truly accurate? Is it really the worst money that Right. Spent really? It’s like, have you eaten at, you know, the gas station? I don’t know, like Right. You know, it’s like really? Right. So what do you do with stuff like that? AWB (39:14): I mean, that stuff is just part of being in business. You gotta let it roll off your back. You can try and respond, you know, I mean, I, I don’t know about you. I’ve had some clients get canceled and it’s often over like really silly things and it’s very painful, it’s very hurtful. Awful. But often the best advice is just to ignore it. Like, just to move on. Yeah. Go do something positive to kind of shut out the negative noise. But I understand a lot of them are like, well, I wanna sue them. And I’m like, that is a AJV (39:43): Waste of your time. AWB (39:45): Kind of the worst thing you could possibly do. ’cause Now your answer just attention. AJV (39:48): It’s just attention. It’s just attention. Yes. AWB (39:50): And I’ll often say, this is not a legal problem, this is a PR problem. AJV (39:54): Yeah. That’s good. AWB (39:54): So some of it you have to kind of handle that way. AJV (39:57): So what, so why did so what was the basis for getting rid of these non-disparagement clauses? Just AWB (40:04): They’ve been legal for a while, but no one was talking about them. Yeah, AJV (40:07): So I this is, I don’t know why it is like it’s, this has been in the last two years and AWB (40:12): People, it’s, yeah, it’s been talked about more. So it’s a federal trade commission rule and it’s consumer protection. So it’s meant to protect customers from being able to speak truthfully about their interactions with a business. So you can’t, it’s kind of like a gag on them being able to, which is why a lot of people want to include non-disparagement in their contracts with their customers. So it’s, it’s still legal in other scenarios. It is becoming a little more iffy in the employment scenario. And I’m not an employment lawyer, so Yeah. I’m not gonna misspeak about that. But it, it is nuanced there. I do know. Yeah. so if you are wanting to include a non-disparagement clause in a, like a severance agreement or a termination agreement, talk with your lawyer because first mm-Hmm. , yes. I’m not a hundred percent up to date on that. But I know that in customer contracts it has always, or not always, but it has for a while been not allowed. AJV (41:04): But I think just everyone, as you’re paying attention to that, just make sure that you are looking at your contracts to make sure they do say things that people are aware of. It’s like you cannot falsely exaggerate or make false claims. And I do contract reviews for some of our clients on occasion. Anyone listening, do not email me. not send you my copy. I’m not an attorney. You can email Autumn. She is. I am not. But I’m, AWB (41:28): You’re delighted to review your attorney, your AJV (41:30): Contract. Correct. In passing, like, Hey, can you look at this, this? And it’s like, and you don’t have anything in there about cannots. And I think that’s back to setting proper expectations of Yeah. However common sense at things. Sometimes it’s good to have common sense in writing. So that would be one. And then since you’ve kind of like, this kind of came up for both of us, like this new non-compete bill that has passed. Yes. Which will be nationwide. AWB (41:53): Yeah. And so that is actually a regulation from the Department of Labor. So it’s not a law, it’s a regulation, but it has just come out. It has not been, you know, they have a publication period where people can comment. So it has not gone into effect yet. And actually we’re sending out a client alert, I think it’s like on my desk to review . So we’ll be sending out a client alert if you’re an a WB from client and listening, you’ll get that. About kind of our recommendations, best practices. What we are recommending now generally is just start going through your files and checking to see if any of your agreements have a non-compete so that whenever this shakes out, there’s lawsuits been being filed, we don’t even know if it’s going to be Mm-Hmm. , you know, in effect ever. So while that’s all shaking out, we’re not recommending any big changes yet. AWB (42:39): But just kind of like, this is a great time to just see if this even matters to you. If you’re drafting new agreements, you might consider leaving it out because it may or may not be valid. One thing in the rule is it, it says if you include a non-compete after the rule goes into effect or maybe if you have one, I can’t remember exactly, but you have to actually send a notice to the person who signed that contract. Like, Hey, that non-compete you signed is no longer valid. Oh. So I think most pe most people don’t want to have to do that. AJV (43:08): Interesting. So, so what about preexisting signed contracts? Those stand, it’s just anything new? AWB (43:14): No, the non-compete would not be enforceable, AJV (43:17): But, but you wouldn’t have to send out something to previously signed yeah. AWB (43:20): Don’t quote me on this because it is detailed and nuanced, but read our client alert, AJV (43:25): , Uhhuh, . But that would be more like a Yes. AWB (43:28): We had a Slack conversation that was like very long about all the nuances, . So AJV (43:34): It’s not simple. This is kind of back to the conversation at hand. It’s like, what do you need to know? And if you don’t know, how do you stay in the know? Right. Yeah. So that’s my last question for today. Other than signing up for this newsletter as a very entry level basic, have some sort of source of information. Yeah. Yeah. If people don’t have an attorney on demand or they don’t have a legal counsel, or they don’t, you know, that’s most people, right? Yeah, absolutely. How on God’s screen earth are we supposed to stay up to date with this stuff? AWB (44:04): You’re gonna do the best you can. And that is, you know, again, proportional to the size of your business and the risk. You know, this is something a lot of people start taking more seriously around half a million, a million, several million in revenue. So if you’re there and you still are not really up to date on all this like judgment free zone, do not beat yourself up. But you can always do better tomorrow. AJV (44:27): But do something and AWB (44:30): Yeah. I mean, just the bigger your business gets, the, you know, some of my clients come to us saying, I feel like I’ve got a target on my back now. Mm-Hmm. And like, I’ve really gotta make sure I’m all buttoned up and that if somebody comes at me that I’m like ready to go. Yeah. So there, there will hit, you will hit a point in your business where it becomes more important. And I’m not saying ignore it, but AJV (44:47): Once you’re doing like seven figures and annual revenue, would you say, Hey, like this is, AWB (44:51): You definitely need a lawyer. Yes. Yes. AJV (44:53): So that’s everyone who’s listening. AWB (44:55): I would, I would say probably like half a million to a million is a great, that’s a great entry point for us. ’cause There’s enough to do you Mm-Hmm. . You know, it’s not just, oh, I need a contract and then we’ll never hear from you again. ’cause We love long-term relationships. We like to, to be kind of a, an essential part of the team. AJV (45:10): You know, and I, you know, I say this lovingly because we’re friends, but not everyone really wants to pay attorneys. Like people don’t really want. AWB (45:17): I understand. It is not the most fun money to spend. I know. Oh. AJV (45:20): But I think that’s a good benchmark for everyone listening. It’s like, even if it’s, sometimes you just have to spend money even when you don’t want to, but AWB (45:27): In your budget, it’s like, it should be in your budget just like marketing or just like working with a bookkeeper or a CPA. Like, it really is a cost of doing business. You cannot ignore it. AJV (45:37): And I would just say from our experiences, it’s much cheaper when you’re proactive. It’s cheaper, it’s always cheaper when there isn’t anything pending. Right? Mm-Hmm. . And it’s, it’s cheaper to do on the front end for sure. It’s always easier and cheaper to do it when you do it. Right. Right. And part of doing it right means that you’ve got the right protection in place and really the right education, which I think a lot of this is a lot of free legal counsel. So you can just, you know, AWB (46:07): Information, not advice. AJV (46:08): Thank you, . That’s right. Well, and I’ll, AWB (46:11): I’ll plug one other thing. Yeah. I’ll plug one other thing before we go, which is we have our own podcast, the Legal Roadmap podcast, which I have stopped publishing new episodes, but there is a ton of evergreen content. So if you’re looking for like the latest and greatest, it will not be there. But if you’re looking to learn some basics about copyrights, trademarks, employment law, all these things that you need in a personal brand business, go check out the legal roadmap. AJV (46:34): Yes. And we’ll put that in the show notes as well. Autumn, this is so helpful, so, so knowledgeable and helpful. And y’all just all got at least $650 worth of free legal information. That advice. Just information. That’s right. So thank you. This was so, so helpful. And again, I just wanna do one more plug for the newsletter because I subscribed to it and it is super helpful and I’m constantly telling people on our team, listen to this one, go watch this. Like, read this. It’s a wb firm.com/newsletter. And then also if you wanna just stay in touch with Autumn, get additional tips, learn stuff, and also the a WB firm, check them out on Instagram. A w firm is their handle. Again, I’ll put all of that in the show notes. And last but not least check out the podcast even though that they’re not posting new episodes you can go and get some evergreen content, which is the Legal Roadmap Podcast. Autumn, thank you so much. This was so helpful. Thank you hj, for asking great questions. This is a fun conversation. And for everybody else, check out the recap version that we will pose shortly. We’ll see you next time on the Influential Personal Brand. Bye everybody.

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25 of the World's Most Recognizable Influencers Share Their Tips on How to Build and Monetize a Personal Brand

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