Leadership

Consultant Career: Trademarking your processes and tools

This consultant nees help retaining the rights to her processes and methodologies.

IT consultants have career issues that are different from those of the corporate IT pro. In this regular column, we will address those issues that are specific to the consultant. This week, we discuss how to deal with contractor trademarks.

This is the e-mail I received from an IT consultant seeking some answer to questions: "In recent months, I have taken steps to safe-guard my processes, methodologies and tools I use in the form of a Trademark. But, the real world isn't Trademark friendly, and I need additional information on how to practically and effectively move from here. As most consultants know, many large projects start with an initial assessment process. It is during this assessment period that the benefits of a full-scale deployment of a process are identified. A common issue I have encountered is that after the assessment, the customer may choose to do the project themselves using the approach I have provided. My position on this is if a client moves forward with a process or approach they have learned from me, I feel I’m entitled to some remuneration -- especially if there are serious cost savings as a direct result of my contribution."

Questions:

Q1. How should my work contracts change as a result of a trademark. For example should I clearly state that my Trademark processes cannot be used without my permission?

Q2. When dealing with agencies, I typically sign their work contract, they don’t sign mine. How do I include the safeguarding of my Trademark when their generic contract does not provide a location for the inclusion for the reference of my Trademark?

Q3. I have concerns about over complicating the hiring process. I'm worried that if I start trying to force Agencies and end customers to sign non-disclosure and non-unauthorized Trademark use agreements that they will find another consultant that is less difficult to deal with.

Q4. In an Agency situation, my contract is normally only with the Agency not with the end customer. How would I be safeguarded against the end customer using my Trademark when I do not have a contract with the end customer?

If you have some feedback on these questions, please post it in the discussion area following this article. If you are a consultant with some questions of your own that you would like to ask, send them to toni.bowers@cnet.com

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

1 comments
techrepublic
techrepublic

Although they're apparently getting better, Trademarks and Patents don't work very well with intellectual concepts. I think that, even if you did manage to trademark your methodology, you'd be hard pressed to prevent someone using it once they understood it. Perhaps approach it from another angle, as the enabler of the methodology. So you wear two hats, the author of this methodology and then as a high end consultant to assist the client to implement it, rather than doing it all yourself. More time and $$$ for you, less stress over people using your ideas. For their next project, they want to be guided through the process again - who do they call? Think of the methodologies and tools out there like Six Sigma or Gantt charts. They are recognised throughout the world and many thousands of consultants make their living from them. If your toolset is good enough to trademark, why not lift yourself that extra level and promote it rather than try and hide it? Name it and become the guru. Take it to a University to develop and promote it. Sure, a lot of people might use it without your permission, but if they only half implement it and it's going pear shaped, who they gonna call?