Intellectual property (IP) is one of many important legal considerations for startups. While a lot of small companies immediately put together an effective IP policy, in contrast many startups don’t take necessary measures to protect their ideas and end up spending a fortune in legal fees down the road.
Basically, IP covers an array of legal ownership claims that include copyrights, trademarks, patents, industrial design rights and trade secrets. Given that IP is broadly defined, there is substantial room for mistakes and oversights.
Protect all of your creations with these ten key steps.
Patent Protection: Protecting Products and Processes
1. Formalize ownership agreements amongst founders.
If your company is just getting off the ground and you’re about to look for some serious funding, hope for the best but get a clear agreement between everyone involved as to who owns what and how any dividends created by your intellectual property will be divided either when you grow larger or if the company just flat out implodes one day.
2. Patent filing is expensive, so spend strategically.
Keep any patent expenses to a minimum and focus them exclusively on strategic IP protection. For example, although you may want to enter international markets one day, first focus on domestic patent filings. Save the international filings for when you reach some of those markets or enough fame to have people overseas even know who you are.
3. Keep your mouth shut about your inventions and patent ideas.
Keep outward information flow to a minimum when it comes to your ideas and intellectual property. It’s understandable that you need to gauge investor interest, however keep to a basic policy of limiting information flow to only those who need to know. Truly sensitive ideas and core patentable plans should only be shown to people who have agreed to sign a non disclosure agreement (NDA).
4. Start with a provisional patent applications first.
Filing a provisional patent with the U.S Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is a nice stop gap before a formal application. Provisional applications allow you to create temporary IP protection with much less legal hassle and expense. Consult with legal professionals first before making a decision.