This weekend, my husband and I visited a new brewery in our neighborhood. We were so stoked about its opening that we started investigating merchandise before even trying a single sip of its craft brews. Our online window shopping was cut short, though, by an odd announcement: The brewery—which already had social media pages, a website, and a huge sign erected in front of its physical location—had to change its name. Why? Because when the owners went to file a trademark on their business name, they discovered that an entity too closely related to their business already had the same name. Major bummer. Even more of a bummer: In addition to dealing with all the stresses of launching a new business, the owners had to change their brewery’s name at the last minute. When my husband and I showed up for the soft launch, we noted all the items that had the old name on it. Me-oh-my! They’re going to need new cups, coasters, growlers, menus, merchandise, and signage as well as a new domain name and social media pages.

Surprisingly, this brewery’s mistake is an incredibly common one. The whirlwind of starting a new business comes with miles-long to-do lists, and there’s a lot to think about. Unfortunately, items related to intellectual property (IP) can fall to the bottom, or worse, not make the list at all. After all, most new businesses don’t even know what IP means, let alone how to handle the tasks associated with it. But this lack of knowledge can have big—and costly—consequences, just like we saw with the brewery. And this issue is not unique to the food and drink industry, either. If you’re considering opening a new physical therapy clinic—or if you just opened one—there are some IP considerations you should attend to way before you pay to have your logo slapped on anything. And if you haven’t taken care of these items, you better hop to it!

1. Lock in your company name, and secure that domain.

For starters, let’s learn a big lesson from the brewery:

  1. Pick your top-three company names.
  2. Make sure they all have domain names (e.g., that are available—and affordable. As Martin Zwilling explains, “Don’t pick a company name until you are certain that you can get the comparable domain name, so Internet brokers won’t hold you hostage.”
  3. Pay a visit to the trademark office, and secure the trademark for your top choice. (This is where the backups may come into play.) I cannot emphasize this step enough, but don’t take my word for it; take Inside Counsel’s: “Registering a trademark is relatively easy and has significant benefits. It expands the reach of the company’s use of that mark, informs the world of the company’s ownership of the mark, and will immediately inform the company if it is building a name around a mark it does not and cannot own. By contrast, failing to obtain broad trademark protection may expose the startup to liability or to knockoffs with confusingly similar names that steal market share.”
    1. Take it up a notch by consulting with a trademark lawyer. As Antone Johnson of the Wall Street Journal explains, “Registering a corporate name with a state or obtaining a domain name doesn't necessarily mean the same name can be used in commerce.” Tricky, right? That’s why calling in legal help is a smart move. “There’s no substitute for consulting with a qualified trademark lawyer before investing heavily (financially or emotionally) in a brand,” says Johnson.
  4. Immediately buy the domain name. While you’re at, buy all the negative domain names associated with your business (e.g.,, so that no one else can lay claim to them, either.
2. Claim those profiles.

You never send snaps; you don’t plan on posting to Instagram; and you’re fairly certain Pinterest isn’t a good fit for your business. None of that matters. You don’t have a crystal ball, and you can’t predict the future of marketing or customer service. Furthermore, your business name—and your brand—matter; you don’t want anyone else using it on any site. “Many companies like Sears, Coca-Cola, and Twitter have already been hurt by people using company names they don’t own on social sites,” explains Martin ZwillingLay claim to all social media profiles—including blogging sites—now, even if you don’t foresee ever using them.

3. Complete all your legal docs.

You’re not a tech startup, so you’re probably not running into the wealth of IP issues plaguing Pied Piper on the hit HBO show Silicon Valley. That being said, there are still several legal documents you should have in place when starting any new business. From company by-laws and employee contracts to liability release forms and operating agreements, these legal documents—while somewhat confusing and time-consuming—can save you from a world of hurt later. Fortunately, the US Small Business Association can point you in the right direction when it comes to completing all the paperwork you need to start your business.

4. Ensure your business plan accounts for IP.

In reality, this step should start with: “Have a business plan,” and then “make sure it accounts for IP.” Having a business plan sounds like a no-brainer—after all, “it’s required should you ever decide to seek financing or sell your business,” explains But a lot of new entrepreneurs forget to create one first thing, especially if they’re part of an industry where business ownership is not a professional’s defining mission. Hello, private practice PT. Fortunately, the folks at the World Intellectual Property Organization have put together a helpful article entirely dedicated to accounting for IP in your business plan.

Now, to answer the questions on everyone’s mind: Yes, the beer at the brewery was very good, and its new name is just as good as the old one. Not every business’s IP nightmares resolve so sweetly, though. Follow the above IP to-dos to ensure you never have to encounter such headaches in the first place.

The Physical Therapists Guide to Contract Negotiation - Regular BannerThe Physical Therapists Guide to Contract Negotiation - Small Banner
  • How to Take Over the Internet: 5 Simple Strategies to Win More Patients Image

    webinarFeb 27, 2015

    How to Take Over the Internet: 5 Simple Strategies to Win More Patients

    Nowadays, everyone is looking for a way to “go viral” online. But with all that go-big-or-go-home hype, it’s easy to get intimidated—and that leaves many small business owners wondering if they have the time, resources, or wherewithal to even make a dent in the Internet, let alone break it.  Don’t get stuck in the muck and mire of cliché goals; you don’t have to hit a million views to make a big impact online. As a private …

  • New Business Checklist for Private Practice PTs Image

    articleJul 29, 2016 | 8 min. read

    New Business Checklist for Private Practice PTs

    In the world of tasks and to-dos, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as completing a checklist (amirite?). I certainly believe this is true—which means, I can check “being right” off of my list of to-dos for today. Cha-ching! But, enough about me. If you’re starting a physical therapy clinic , you’ve probably got enough tasks floating around in your mind to make a list a mile long—and that list has to cover all of your bases. Feeling …

  • articleJun 17, 2013 | 2 min. read

    How to Finish a Business Plan

    You’ve got all your business plan ducks in a row —you’ve analyzed your staffing needs, nailed down your financing options, and set your business goals—and your partners are on board. Now, it’s time to put pen to paper. Well, hopefully fingers to a keyboard because even though most business plans have gotten much shorter than they used to be, they’re still pretty detailed documents. However, as Palo Alto Software President Tim Berry points out , “don’t confuse …

  • Common Questions from our Physical Therapy Website Optimization Webinar Image

    articleOct 18, 2017 | 21 min. read

    Common Questions from our Physical Therapy Website Optimization Webinar

    On October 17, 2017, WebPT’s own Charlotte Bohnett and Shawn McKee hosted a webinar detailing how rehab therapy practices can make themselves findable—and, more importantly, discoverable—online. During the presentation, they covered everything from blogging and soliciting reviews to keywording and optimizing online profiles. It was a lot of juicy information—and we received a lot of juicy questions from our audience. We’ve compiled the most common ones—and their answers—in the FAQ below. Reviews Can I send patients a …

  • How to Start a Business Plan Image

    articleJun 17, 2013 | 5 min. read

    How to Start a Business Plan

    Whether you’re in the process of starting your own business or you’ve been in business for years now but just never got around to writing your business plan, this blog is for you. Here, I've compiled some great information to help you put together this ultra important document. Let’s start with the basics: What is a business plan? A business plan is a formal document detailing everything about your business. Venture coach Stever Robbins writes in an …

  • D’Oh! 3 Major Physical Therapy Marketing Fails Image

    articleSep 18, 2017 | 8 min. read

    D’Oh! 3 Major Physical Therapy Marketing Fails

    Homer Simpson introduced the catchphrase “d’oh!” on the long-running cartoon sitcom, The Simpsons, in 1989. It’s arguably one of the most recognizable catchphrases in American pop culture. So much so, in fact, that the Oxford Dictionary of English added the word in 2001. Defined as an informal exclamation “used to comment on a foolish or stupid action, especially one's own,” “d’oh” is the most fitting—and safe for work—reaction to committing a major fail. “D’oh” is even more …

  • articleJun 19, 2013 | 4 min. read

    5 Tips for Creating an Inviting Reception Area in Your Clinic

    Your mother always told you not to judge a book by its cover, but in the world of small business, first impressions are crucial. Regardless of the type of practice you own, a patient’s opinion of your business begins the moment he or she walks through the front door. (For tips on getting more patients through the door in the first place, be sure to download our free marketing e-book .) The more welcoming the space, the …

  • How To Start a PT Practice While Keeping a Full-Time Job Image

    articleJun 1, 2017 | 10 min. read

    How To Start a PT Practice While Keeping a Full-Time Job

    Would you like to start your own practice—but don’t know where to begin? Are you fully employed and think you don’t have enough time? Too much student debt? Too many family responsibilities? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you’re not the only healthcare professional stuck in this situation. Thousands of therapists just like you have a dream of leaving hamster-wheel practices, but they just can’t bring themselves to walk away from their family and …

  • 7 Lessons Learned from Opening a PT Private Practice Image

    articleJul 25, 2017 | 9 min. read

    7 Lessons Learned from Opening a PT Private Practice

    A little over a year ago, Kaci Monroe was punching the clock as a staff physical therapist in a small outpatient clinic in northwestern Montana. And while there were a lot of great things about the job—the location was incredible, the patients were awesome, and the practice was growing—Kaci couldn’t shake the feeling that she was destined for something more. “As a new graduate, getting my first job, I remember during the interview telling them someday my …

Achieve greatness in practice with the ultimate EMR for PTs, OTs, and SLPs.