When anyone in the gun industry gets a whiff of pumpkin pie, their gut tightens a bit because they know how much work they have to do to get ready for the SHOT Show. It’s that time of year. The calendar may say there’s a couple of months, but with Christmas and all the pre-SHOT chores there isn’t much time at all.
You probably had your rooms booked right after the show last year, and your flights booked in summer. But you’ve been working all year, developing new product and new branding strategies. Based on what I hear from clients, a disproportionate number of new product released stretch out until the next SHOT Show, and many of the rest are last minute developments that are accelerated to be released at the show (you can tell those on opening day from the smell of wet paint at some booths). It seems like everything happens at SHOT.
This year, my team begged me to get the word out in advance to help you help me help them survive the weeks and days leading up to SHOT. The reality is that some things happen at the last minute, and we’re there for you. But you probably have some projects that are actually ready for us to handle so you’ll be ready for SHOT. So I’m writing to encourage you not to worry about whether we’re swigging hot buttered rum or lingering under the mistletoe this month – we’d rather get your important work done now and avoid the Pre-SHOT crunch.
I hope you have some new products for the SHOT Show. By my internal measures the industry is healthy overall, but that’s because the innovators are prospering while those who are sitting on their hands are still suffering the “Trump Slump.” We may still be below the fear-driven peaks of the past decade, and there may remain real challenges for the best companies in certain sectors, but overall the direction is healthy, and smart companies are innovating and investing to secure those innovations.
If you don’t have new products, but can position old products in a different way, or rebrand ones that the market never noticed, you still have an opportunity to stand out.
If you have something new, continue. If you have nothing new for the SHOT Show, stop reading and start innovating!
The Show is combed over by the investigators of many big companies, and the small ones have their eyes open too. They’re looking for infringements. They are primarily looking for shameless counterfeits – knock-off products that are sold by hucksters brash enough to use the actual brand name and logo of the company they’re knocking off! That can mean confiscation of goods, ejection from the show, and worse. The esteemed readers of this newsletter surely don’t need to worry about those consequences, but you can wind up in hot water if your new product has a brand name that infringes someone else’s rights.
They won’t take you away in handcuffs, and you probably won’t have anything confiscated, but if you hear a threat that your new product’s name infringes the trademark rights of a big industry player, I suspect you’ll be distracted from your mission. It’s hard to enthusiastically promote something when you know you might have to change the name.
There is a simple and inexpensive insurance policy to prevent this minor disaster: Search your new trademarks before you finalize them. My team and I do this countless times a year and the small investment helps you avoid big legal fees when faced with a trademark lawsuit. Not to mention the waste of your marketing investment when you have to drop a brand name.
Because I want to see if we can reduce our crunch in January, I’m doing an experiment this year. I’m offering FREE trademark searches to all my readers, but only if requested by email during the month of December. If you have a couple of choices, put them in order and I’ll stop and let you know when I come to one that looks clear. No charge, whether or not you’re already a client. You can email us as the ball drops on the 31st, and the free offer will be honored. Just be sure to note the product this will be used for and we should be able to get you results in a business day or two.
It won’t protect your new brand, but it will protect you from the risk of infringement on someone’s trademark.
You’re probably wondering if I really see pirates and other nefarious bandits around every corner. The reason I want you to be aware of these risks is that the moment you announce a new product’s brand name you serve it up on a platter to folks who can hurt your business. Imagine if your neighbor left a box from a big-screen TV on his curb for a week, and left his door unlocked. That’s what many businesses do when they announce a new product before they’ve applied to register the trademark. Until they apply or start selling, the announced brand name is vulnerable to be grabbed by anyone – innocently or not.
Thankfully, we can file an Intent-to-Use trademark application before the product hits the market. It reserves the rights and gets the examination process started. You can start this well in advance as soon as you know the brand, and can get it nearly registered so that all you have to do is show evidence of your first sale to finish the process. Filings can be done quickly in advance of an announcement, but please give us a few weeks if you can. If you know the brand that will be launched at SHOT, let us know now so we can get it filed in plenty of time.
Also, be sure to grab all the domain names that relate to your new brand name. You don’t want your competitors stealing your traffic. And while we have effective tools for recovering domains from cyber-squatters who register them after you apply for your trademark, if you didn’t invest in a trademark application you may be out of luck.
You probably already know that the easy way to protect an innovative product is to have us prepare and file a patent application before you reveal it. But that’s not always a practical choice. First, it’s a big investment, and you might be unsure how the market will react. Second, you might have better things to do with your cash like promoting the product – you’d rather defer legal expenses when you can. Third, you might even be anticipating updated product versions and want to wait to protect those updates.
Obviously, you can’t expect to get a signed Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) from everyone who visits your SHOT Show booth, but there’s a good alternative my readers have heard a lot about in recent years. It’s called a Provisional Patent Application, and it’s fast and affordable.
Working with your existing drawings, and maybe a couple more I suggest, and with your informal technical write-up that captions those drawings, we can quickly format and file in days. The cost is a low flat fee that ends up credited to your future full patent application, and you have a filing date that gives you an early position in any First-to-File race. Best of all, you don’t need to worry about keeping your invention secret because it’s patent pending.
We don’t (yet) have any surcharges or loss of benefits for last-minute requests. We’ll do what it takes. But if you have something that’s nearly ready we’d rather take care of it now, even over the Holidays, instead of pushing it into January when the real emergency filings happen.
Remember that product you released at last year’s SHOT Show? We managed to file a provisional application just in time to make that a safe choice, but time is now dangerously short to turn that into a full patent application. That’s because there’s one year from a provisional filing to the deadline for a full patent application. Last year’s pre-SHOT provisional crunch turns into this year’s full patent application crunch. Like accountants as Tax Day approaches, we’re not complaining but just want to be able to meet everyone’s deadlines.
We normally like to allow two months for a full patent application but can do one month in a crunch. We also have another trick up our sleeve. As we have explained, you can’t extend a provisional application with another provisional, and sometimes the benefits of a provisional are essential and can’t be lost. But when you’re not yet ready due to funding or other reasons we can file what I’ve called a Lifeboat patent application. It has about the same content as the provisional, but is upgraded in some respects to meet the statutory requirements for a non-provisional (full) patent application. It’s only a small investment, and truly extends the provisional.
One of the times a Lifeboat application is useful is when we get a last-minute request to prepare and file a full patent application to meet a provisional deadline that doesn’t allow enough time to do the job right. Each case may have different risks and benefits but it can often save your bacon. A Lifeboat can be a life-saver when we get an eleventh-hour request for a full patent application that simply can’t be met. The main lesson is never to assume there isn’t a solution. We can find the right path to secure your rights.
Since my first SHOT Show in 2002 I’ve tried to cover the whole show, meet everyone I could, of course visit all my clients, and say hello to everyone I know. More than once I’ve heard an exhibitor say: “Ben, I needed to talk to you, and I knew you’d come by like you do every year.” It’s gratifying to have a reputation for reliability, but in recent years I’ve been finding myself running a little ragged trying to see everyone. I’ve already experimented with such radical notions as skipping the extra round of drinks after dinner, and getting a decent night’s sleep to keep my energy level where it needs to be.
This year I’ll be there every day and trying to see everyone, but am asking friends and clients alike to be sure to send a message if you want me to be sure to stop by. It’s nice to review important plans and technology in person when you can.
I’ll also be repeating a successful program I started last year I call “office hours.” That’s where I set up at a set location and have scheduled timeslots to meet with my clients and friends who are attending the show but not exhibiting. It’s a lot easier than texting and trying to find each other at the show, and means I can finally meet some of my newer start-up clients I’ve only spoken to on the phone. It’s on the afternoon of the second day, and ends with a “gaggle” when anyone can stop by and say hello.
Another secret acquired over nearly two decades of SHOT Show attendance is that being a little boring can make things more comfortable. I have breakfast at the same restaurant every day (this is also a good time for meetings – let me know), and when there’s not a client event I’ll have a quiet dinner at the same place at the long zinc bar starting with a dozen oysters. It becomes a “home” for the show and helps to recharge more than rushing around the strip for shows. Text me to learn the name of my favorite spot (in the Venetian) and you might join me for a drink at the end of the day.
One final tip I have to be vague about lest one client kill me for revealing his secret: You might be surprised what convenient lunch spots will take an Open Table reservation for you to pop out for a civilized lunch each day. I just made one for the first day of the show and will see how it works out! My friend says he enjoys walking past the massive crowds out front to his reserved table inside. If you guess right I’ll see you there!
Meanwhile, don’t hesitate to let us know what you need to be sure you’re ready for the most important event of the year. See you in Las Vegas!