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."


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

About Toni Bowers

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.

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