At the onset of a startup, there are a lot of factors to consider in operations and costs. It’s a critical time, as these decisions can have a strong bearing on whether it succeeds or not. This takes considerable acumen, as well as time and resources. For this reason, startups sometimes delay obtaining legal protection of intellectual property rights. Securing intellectual property (IP) rights can be expensive and timely, deterring startups from starting the process in the early stages of business development when they have limited resources.
However, delaying the protection of your ideas can limit access to potential investors and put your business at risk of infringement. Securing IP protection does not have to be a financial burden. Below, we detail how basic IP protection can benefit your startup. Is your startup ready? Determine if it’s the right time to develop an IP strategy.
What Is Intellectual Property?
Before delving into the details of when to secure legal protection of intellectual property rights, it’s important to understand what constitutes intellectual property. For a business, IP pertains to patents, copyrights, trade secrets and trademarks. This can include protection for an invention, software, brand name, formula or logo. It can also include protection for property such as a website, painting, or musical composition.
A legal service can help you determine whether your startup needs a patent, trademark, or copyright. The law regarding copyright can be complex, and you may require legal counseling to help your business negotiate the complex statutes of copyright, trademark, and patent law. IP protection offers security from competitors trying to profit from your property.
Should Your Startup Secure IP Rights?
Having an effective IP strategy can benefit your startup business in numerous ways. Notably, it can save you money from unforeseen infringement lawsuits as well as increase your competitive advantage.
One of the more common ways your business can benefit from IP protection is to curtail competing companies from profiting off your intellectual property. This gives your startup a legal advantage since your material is registered to your company, and essentially, the ownership belongs to your business. If a competitor copies your material, it gives your startup an advantage in an infringement lawsuit, making it easier to prove the intellectual property belongs to your business. It can also prevent companies from infringing on your IP, as they can check with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to see that your property is registered.
This concept can also work conversely: if you have an idea and are seeking to secure IP rights for property that is already protected, it will save you from making a costly infringement mistake. It could save you from expensive litigation for using material that is already owned by someone else.
Intellectual property rights also establish a competitive advantage and appeal to potential investors. A thoughtful IP strategy communicates to investors that your business is secure and less of a risk to invest in.
What If You Choose to Delay Securing IP Protection for Your Startup?
As discussed earlier, startups often have fewer resources and money in the early stages of business development and may choose to delay IP protection until they have some success. Though this can initially seem less important to prioritize, IP may be your startup’s biggest asset, and it’s worth protecting. Without an IP strategy, your startup is left unprotected. If your business has an original invention, software, or composition and does not protect it, another company can copy your idea and patent it before you. Even if your business originated the idea, whoever files first owns the property and profits from it.
Additionally, not securing legal protection of intellectual property rights limits your business’s ability to profit from such material. When you secure IP protection it allows your business to profit from your property. If a company wants to use your work, they will have to pay for the rights. However, if you do not patent, copyright, or trademark your work, a company can copy it without paying you. This also means your business cannot license its property.
How Do You Know When Your Startup Is Ready?
Typically, it’s best to secure protection for your IP in the beginning stages of your business. It’s easier to protect your property at the onset, rather than waiting until your ideas have become successful. A good IP strategy happens as soon as possible. Waiting to register your property risks someone else registering the idea first. Particularly with patents for inventions, registering is time-sensitive and does not extend beyond certain potential grace periods.
Though copyrights and trademarks are less time-sensitive, it’s still a good idea to register early so your startup can begin to use it with the knowledge that it isn’t infringing on another’s rights and is protected from competitors profiting from the same material.
If you are part of a startup and are looking for patent counseling and protection, Berkeley Law & Technology Group in Austin and Portland can provide a range of intellectual property services. We specialize in helping startups, and our team of experienced attorneys, agents, and staff work to secure and safeguard your intangible assets. Whether it’s an invention, creative work, symbol, name, or design, we are here to help. Contact us today to develop your intellectual property strategy, patent, trademark, copyright, or trade secret.
Though it can be challenging to obtain and protect intellectual property, a trustworthy firm can guide you through all the steps of counseling, registration and protection, enforcement and defense, licensing, drafting, and negotiations. Don’t fall into the trap of undervaluing your intellectual property. Develop a thoughtful IP strategy in the early stages of your business development. This can protect your property, save your business from costly infringement litigation, attract investors, and maximize your startup’s competitive advantage.