What Start-Up Businesses Need to Know About Intellectual Property Law

Paper and Pencil Question

The early stages of a new business can be a bit taxing and strenuous. There are several forms that need to be filled out, tasks that need to be done, employees that need to be hired, and so on. During these times, it may be challenging to set up your intangible or intellectual property assets as well.

Keep in mind that these assets are equally important as your physical assets. Intangible assets such as trademarks and patents are crucial for your start-up because they provide a foundation as well as help you determine your current market position.

So to help you during these times, we have listed some of the basic things you should know about intellectual property.

Different types of intellectual property

When setting up your business, it is important to know the different types of intellectual property. By doing this, you would be able to identify which type of assets you own.

There are three types of intellectual property: patents, trademarks, and copyrights.

  1. Patent is an exclusive right granted for an invention. These inventions can be a machine, software, drug composition, and so on.
  2. Trademark is generally granted to a logo, slogan, phrase, symbol, or design that customers associate with your business.
  3. Copyright is usually granted to creative and original works such as songs, movies, poetry, novels, and so on.

Being able to identify which type of intellectual property assets you own is important because you would know which assets you can benefit from. Additionally, you would be able to identify which type of protection is best suited for your assets.

Freedom to operate

Once you are able to identify the type of intellectual properties you own, you must now determine whether it is safe to start your business. Conducting a freedom to operate search helps you minimize the risks of infringing other business’ intellectual property.

For instance, when you conduct a freedom to operate search, you found out that your startup’s logo is visually similar to an already registered trademark within your niche market. Should you initially choose to not conduct a freedom to operate search, you can unknowingly commit trademark infringement. This can be a big setback for your business.

Taking this into account, conducting a freedom to operate search is important because it helps you better navigate your way into the market.

Intellectual property in business valuation

Intellectual property plays a significant role in startup valuation. When it is skillfully registered and well-developed, your startup can be worth much more in the market.

Registering and enforcing your intellectual property sends a message to potential investors that you are serious and committed to developing it. In turn, your business becomes more marketable and attractive for investors as well as customers.

Having the right intellectual property protection in place also helps startups determine and secure their place in the market. Since a startup’s foundation is centered on developing a unique and original products or services for the public, intellectual property protection such as patents essentially grants the businesses the right to prevent others from commercially exploiting their product without consent.

That being the case, it gives them a competitive edge in the market. Without having effective intellectual property protection, other businesses can just copy and commercially exploit your products.

Different intellectual property strategies

For each type of intellectual property, there are corresponding procedures to obtain protection. It is crucial that you have a basic understanding of these procedures so that you can effectively come up with a better strategy and approach for your startup.

For instance, one of the goals of your business is to reach several markets abroad. Before you are able to do that, you must obtain an international trademark first. Instead of filing trademark registration for each country, you can just file a single application under the Madrid Protocol. This application simplifies the registration process and it applies to over 80 countries.

That being said, understanding the registration process can save you a lot of time, money, and effort. There are several ways on how to file a patent, trademark, or copyright; there are different strategies that you can apply in order to make these processes easier and less costly.

Intellectual property enforcement

It is one thing to have your intellectual property assets protected; it is another thing to enforce it. You can deter others from using or copying your products by formally registering it. By enforcing it, you can prevent others from copying your product and at the same time claim damages and fees.

Without proper enforcement, businesses, especially start-ups, can run the risk of losing their IP. So it is highly advisable to hire an attorney to guide you along the process. There are several trademark and patent attorneys serving New York, California, Seattle, or other states near you that you can contact and ask for help.

How long does intellectual property protection last?

  • Patents – The term for patent varies for each type of patent. Utility and plant patent lasts for 20 years, while a design patent only lasts for 14 years. When a patent expires, the patented invention then moves to the public domain where anyone can use it for free.
  • Trademarks – Unlike patents, trademarks do not expire but you need to renew it every ten years.
  • Copyright – Generally, the term for copyright is the life of the author plus 70 years.

Maintenance and renewal

Maintenance fees are required to keep your patents in force. After the USPTO issues your patent, you need to pay these periodic fees in order to keep your patent. However, this only applies to utility patents. Design and plant patents do not have maintenance fees.

Trademarks, on the other hand, need to be renewed every ten years. Should you fail to renew your trademark, you run the risks of losing your trademark to someone else’s.

Knowing and understanding this information about intellectual property can help your startup in the long-run. It lets you decide which assets are worthy of keeping and protecting.


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