5 Intellectual Property Tips For Startups

Starting, and building a successful business takes a good idea, a lot of energy and determination, the right opportunities and being surrounded by the best people. Once you have all this, you must secure and protect it. Your intellectual property (IP) assets being key to your success, let’s share a few – helpful – tips to see how it can take your business one step forward!
(Featured Image: Laure Chemla, Intellectual Property Senior Associate at CMS / Image Credit © Anna Katina / Silicon Luxembourg)
1. Legal is not boring and can even sometimes save your business

Legal may not be the first subject that you would like to hear about when you launch your startup, but you need to take it into consideration from the beginning to avoid that small mistakes end up becoming huge issues. Launching a business remains a challenging project with a lot to know and to do. In addition, there are several legal, tax and employment issues to take into consideration to ensure the success of your business.

2. Do not forget to protect your IP assets

Once you have found the perfect name for your product, developed a new technology or are ready to launch a flawless app, great, your project is on. But what if a competitor is already using a name close to yours, or if someone has filed a patent on a similar technology? You will have to rethink your entire project. Having IP assets is crucial but protecting them, is even more valuable. Before launching your product or your technology, the first step to do is an availability search for trademark or a prior art search for patent. Then you must protect your IP assets.

3. Sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) and think twice before disclosing confidential information

At one point, you may have to disclose confidential information to investors, manufacturers, business partners… Key insights on your project might fall into the wrong hands. This is why you will need an NDA to protect both you and your business.

You should always be careful when deciding which confidential information you decide to share with whom and when but also decide which information you will not disclose and for what purpose.

You also need to pay attention to trade secrets and make sure to keep them confidential without any limitation of time. Whereas the confidentiality of an NDA can end within a certain period of time, usually after 3 to 5 years, the trade secrets should always remain confidential to be protected as such.

4. Be careful with open source program

No matter if you develop a software internally or through an agency, you should be careful when using an open source program. Despite its name, open source does not mean free as it remains subject to IP’s rights.

By using an open source software, you will benefit from a licence authorizing you to use it for free. Doing so implies that any improvement or modification of the source code that you have done will be made available to the community. In other words, you, or your client if you are an agency, may be required to give to the community – and so to potential competitors – access to a source code for which you/they have paid for.

5. Manage your IP portfolio, in line with your business strategy

While expanding your business and activities you must not forget to get your IP strategy aligned. It may be by filing not only your trademark but also your logo for instance, or even by extending your trademark or patent protection from a national protection to a European or international one. If you continue to develop your product and add new features, a new patent application may be necessary. Also, if you develop a new range of products, you may have new trademarks to file.

A key advice is to use your IP assets wisely and, if you have spent time and money to develop your logo and register it, do not change it every six months just because you suddenly thought of a nicer one… If you do so, all your previous investment will have vanished and you would need to refile a new trademark.

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