Starting a business can be a scary endeavor. There are many aspects to consider, from securing financial investments to marketing and branding. In pulling all of these elements together, it can be easy to overlook some key steps, such as intellectual property protection. Unfortunately, missing this step can cost you and your company dearly down the road. Therefore, before setting out on your path and creating your startup, it’s vital to understand what intellectual property is and how securing protections can benefit your business.
What is Intellectual Property?
Intellectual property is often an intangible asset during the startup phase of a company. From a broader sense, intellectual property is the material created by you and your business, which can include ideas, inventions, products, processes, software, and other elements.
There are four primary types of intellectual property.
- Copyright: Copyright protections exist to ensure creator rights. These rights are often based on originality and creativity. In most instances, copyright protections remain in place throughout the creator’s life plus an additional sixty years. Copyright protections cover artistic, dramatic, musical, sound recordings, cinematography, and literary works, including software.
- Patents: Patents exist so that the creator can determine who may use an invention or not. Patents can include anything related to innovation, including technologies and newly developed products. Applying for a patent can be a long and meticulous process, and it is often best to start as soon as possible. The standard patent period is twenty years.
- Trademarks: Trademark registration allows the creator of something to put their unique mark on their products. It differentiates between one company’s goods or services and another’s. Failing to obtain a trademark can make it legal for another company to adopt a logo or other branding material similar to yours in an attempt to fool consumers. Trademarks become more valuable as a brand becomes more recognizable to the general public. Trademarks have to be unique and distinct from trademarks of other companies. Trademarks can cover devices, brands, headings, labels, names, signatures, words, letters, numbers, shapes of goods, packaging, or color combinations. Trademark registration depends on the trademark’s distinctiveness, and companies can renew trademark protections for as long as they wish, provided they renew it every ten years.
- Trade secrets: Trade secrets can refer to any information exclusive to your company that gives you an advantage over competitors.
Why is Protecting Intellectual Property Important for my Startup?
When starting a business, funding can be tight. For this reason, many startups put off securing intellectual property protections, assuming it will be easier to pay for later. Unfortunately, making this decision means your company will miss out on the benefits of properly secured intellectual property rights.
The benefits of securing intellectual property include the following:
- It can prevent other companies from using your material. One of the key advantages of securing intellectual property is that it can legally prevent other companies from using – and profiting – off of your ideas, inventions, and branding materials.
- It can help you avoid litigation. Unfortunately, a failure to properly secure intellectual property rights can result in resource-draining and complex business litigation. Securing your rights can help you avoid litigation since you can check with the United States Patent and Trademark Office to see if your material is already protected. It also means that others can verify that their material is dissimilar from yours before securing rights for their company.
- It provides the presumption of ownership. When you have legal intellectual property rights, you claim the property belongs to you. If another company infringes on your rights as the intellectual property owner, you have the right to pursue legal remedies.
- It can protect you from infringement suits. Suppose your company doesn’t go through the process of securing intellectual property. In that case, you may be unknowingly using intellectual property that belongs to another company – and this scenario puts you in a weak legal position. You can unwittingly be at risk of being sued by another company.
- It provides you with a competitive advantage. The key premise behind intellectual property rights is that you have something unique that can put you ahead of the competition. By securing these rights, you are ensuring that this competitive advantage remains yours alone.
- It can help you attract investors. Modern investors are savvy and understand the importance of protecting unique ideas and other types of intellectual property. If you fail to get the appropriate protections, investors may be reluctant to invest because they recognize that this failure puts your company in a weak legal position.
As you can see, securing intellectual property protection is crucial for startups. For more information about intellectual property protection and related complex business litigation, contact Grellas Shah LLP today.