When I do seminars for credit unions, leagues and vendors, there are always follow-up questions. Recently, I did a marketing compliance seminar for EverythingCU. In all my years of public speaking I don’t think I’ve ever received so many follow-up questions.
I have used the blog previously as a vehicle to respond to seminar follow-up questions. I think it works well for that. That way, everyone can see my responses. Some of the questions are of such a detailed nature that a true answer would require a formal legal opinion. Of course, while I can give out information relating to topics and cite legal resources, I cannot give a legal opinion on the blog.
Some of these questions require a blog post unto themselves. With that in mind it’s going to take many blog posts to get through all of the questions. The first question is:
“During the webinar the topic of rounding up debit card purchases was brought up by you. I just need to clarify whether I interpreted your information correctly or not. From what I understand, no institution can round up purchases because another institution has patented the process, correct? So, even if we offered this product with a different name and possibly different qualifications, we still cannot offer it to our membership?”
I think this question needs a little more explanation before I answer it. The marketing compliance seminar I gave had a section on trademarks and copyright. One of my ongoing messages to credit unions is to protect their intellectual property be it a name, a service or a program. Vendors protect their IP with all the legal power that they can muster. Consider overdraft services for example. Everyone in that industry has trademarked the names and processes involved. With respect to a newly emerging service such as this, you can bet that this is patented and that the name is a registered trademark. Does this mean you can never do it? No. You may have to obtain a license from a patent holder to do it or you may have to figure out a different way to do it (and then be sure to patent that yourself). Moreover, and really the whole point of bringing it up is: you need to do an IP analysis whenever you do something new. You need to do some due diligence as to whether or not that new product or service that you are launching violates someone else’s IP. If you are working with a vendor, ideally that vendor owns its IP and will cover you if there are any problems. You need to look for that language in the vendor’s contract and put it in there if it is not already there.
So that’s the first Q&A blog from the seminar. I have a ton of material to go. It should mean that I’ll be blogging more than usual over the next few weeks and that’s good.