Clear definition and protection of intellectual property (IP) is a must for startups, and yet as a new business it may be difficult to determine what should be protected.
Here are a key few items to consider in planning stages:
Company name and branding
The United States Patent Office recommends that every new business begin by defining their brand. Although this may seem simple on the surface, there are many aspects to consider before moving forward. Has this name or one like it been used or registered to a company doing similar business? How will this brand work for your target market.
Define intellectual property
In addition to your company name and brand image(s), you must carefully delineate ideas belonging to your business, both initially and as your company develops. Again, this may sound simple on the surface but bear in mind you may have multiple partners in your startup who may one day leave your business for other pursuits. Those ideas specific to your business must be 1) defined, and 2) recorded as belonging to your business. These ideas include the obvious items like patents, copyrights, and trademarks. Intellectual property can also include trade secret items like client lists, training materials, and inter-office memoranda.
Once you have defined the limits of IP belonging to your business, all individuals affiliated with your business must contractually agree to be bound by these limitations. For example, if your business is going to use a patented design developed by yourself and improved upon by an associate, that associate—as well as yourself—must agree that the idea will become the property of your startup. All profits resulting from that idea will go to the company and be disbursed accordingly. Such contracts are necessary to protect the business, and to protect all parties involved.
Overhead and production costs will likely be your largest expenditures once you have defined the above conditions. Before you begin production, you must ask yourself if you have made certain that your business owns the rights to intangible properties? For example, are your business cards printed with a logo you have a registered right to use? Are any trade secrets you will use to provide services to your clients covered by non-compete clauses?
Although it may seem tiring at first, identifying intellectual property at the outset is the only way to ensure that a business will succeed in the long term. Before finalizing any IP strategy, think ahead.
For more information on how Traklight can help you identify intellectual property, and keep that property secure, contact us today and sign up now for the low-cost IP plan that will best benefit your long-term plans.
Startups —how do you know if your idea is worth a patent? Download our whitepaper "To Patent or Not To Patent?" for a case study on Coca-Cola.