If you’re an entrepreneur launching a start-up, you’re likely moving at a million miles an hour and juggling a million moving parts. Amid the start-up craziness, it’s easy to be driven by passion rather than proceed with caution. But, to ensure your start-up is successful, it’s necessary to pause and take a few minutes to think about the very assets on which your start-up is built.
From the idea that is the foundation of your start-up, to your developer’s code, and your account team’s contact lists, your start-up has IP that, if not protected, could cause you to lose investor opportunities, or worse, cause your start-up to fail all together.
Rid Yourself of Worry and Create an IP Strategy
Many entrepreneurs feel overwhelmed by the thought of IP and don’t know where to start or what to do. The first step in IP protection is to have an IP strategy so that you understand the steps involved. Creating an IP strategy will help the pursuit of IP protection feel more like peace of mind rather than a costly burden.
Key Considerations When Creating an IP Strategy:
Dedicated IP Person
Appoint one person to drive the IP protection process. The most important thing is that you implicitly trust this person…with your life! Your dedicated IP person doesn’t need to be an expert in IP, but they do need to have working knowledge of your start-ups assets and the value attached to those assets. In an ideal world, the start-up founder would be the dedicated IP person. If time doesn’t allow for the founder to create an IP strategy and see it through, ensure that the person embarking in IP protection has the time and authority to meet with attorneys, consult with key stakeholders, and have the authority to make decisions.
Double-check Your Employees
I mentioned above to ensure that your dedicated IP person is someone whom you trust. The same is true for your employees and anyone you’ve contracted or invited to join your start-up team. It’s important to ensure that all team members sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) so that the details surrounding the start-up remain confidential.
Also, if your team consists of people who have day jobs or are contracted with other organizations where there is a non-compete in place with IP provisions, the organization or employer could claim rights to their employee’s IP – even if it was created after hours or on your start-up’s watch. This is a particular threat if your team members have other employment obligations that include the same kind of work as your start-up. So, be sure to address existing non-competes with anyone you invite to join your team so that your IP can’t be taken right from underneath you from your team members’ employers.
Identify Your IP Assets
Every single business has intellectual property. Every. Single. One. While it’s easy to overlook intangible assets because they’re, well, intangible, there are comprehensive online tools that can help you identify your IP. We happen to recommend Traklight’s ID your IP Tool – shameless plug, we know! Once you identify your IP and create an IP inventory, you can create a detailed IP strategy along with action items with next steps required to move onward toward IP protection. Identifying your IP using an online tool like Traklight’s ID your IP will save you hundreds of dollars during an attorney consultation.