Even if your first thought as a startup or business owner is ‘What is intellectual property (IP)? Perhaps I should find out.” that is a start that might considerably improve the health of your venture later on. From Apple and Samsung to individual entrepreneurs, we all have such assets to protect.
Take the example of the founder who asked her friend to design a logo. The company thrived, the friendship did not. The end result, a ‘cease and desist’ letter that resulted in much expense and a major distraction from business operations. A simple contract confirming company ownership of the logo could have saved that particular headache. If only she had known.
So what prevents early stage entrepreneurs and startups from addressing this most basic of business health insurances? Here are a few common misconceptions:
“I don’t have any intellectual property.”
You probably do. You can lose the right to use a name (even your own) associated with a product or service if you do not secure rights to it. There are major brands using the family names of long-gone partners who inadvertently did not secure their own rights. And that is before you even get into logos, images, designs, photographs, sounds, smells, recipes, customer lists, business plans, technology, R&D, consumer products… The list goes on.
“Someone told me I don’t need a patent.”
Maybe not, but how about copyrights, trademarks, design rights, trade secrets? Many of these are essential to the health of any business or enterprise. Moreover, depending on the circumstances of your business and the advice you received, it can sometimes be advisable to get a second opinion on whether or not you really do need that patent. You may also want to ensure that you are not infringing on anyone else’s.
“I don’t have time or resources to consult a lawyer.”
Preventative healthcare is usually preferable to medical treatment later on. Similarly, time and resources spent now in getting a basic IP strategy together need to be balanced with the time and resources that may be needed to address potential issues. Here’s how Twitter learned the hard way. And some IP protection can come completely free. Protecting Trade Secrets often falls into this category. Find out more about how to secure this ‘free IP’.
“IP is ‘invisible’ – It adds no value for my business.”
This may well be the biggest misconception of them all. As well as being a necessary insurance for you, investors are likely to tell you that IP protection is also essential to them (think competition, infringement, litigation). From Silicon Valley venture capitalists to your local bank, investors don’t like risk. Putting a robust IP strategy together early on will not only improve your overall business health; it may also substantially increase your chances of successfully attracting investors