Your ability to protect your intellectual property (IP) can determine the success or failure of your business. IP gives you the legal right to stop others using the intangible assets that are essential to your business.
Start-up Business and Intellectual Property
When you’re just starting a business, you will likely have a lack of assets, which is what makes it so critical to identify and protect the assets you do have. This is because your intellectual assets are what makes your business unique, differentiates you from other brands, and drives your revenue. Failure to identify and protect your intellectual assets could mean your business fails because someone else more established uses your innovative idea.
3 Steps You Can Take to Protect Your Intellectual Property
Last month, Senior Associate Laura Carter from HGM Legal shared her advice on protecting your intellectual property, particularly for start-up businesses. Here were the 3 steps she recommends taking to ensure your business doesn’t get caught out:
1. Know where your IP is.
This is about identifying where in your business your IP sits, and what role it plays in your business success.
What IP is crucial to your business? Do you have the appropriate agreements in place to make sure its owned by the right entity? Are you making sure you’re capturing new IP that is produced by you, your employees and contractors? Do you have appropriate protection for this IP in place?
Protection might mean registered IP rights like trademarks, patents or registered designs. Or it might mean unregistered rights, like goodwill/reputation, copyright, or trade secrets. Protecting your IP appropriately might also mean having good non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements in place.
If you own or produce any other IP which is valuable, but which you are not using, think about whether you can sell or license it.
2. Understand your competitors’ IP
Every time you enter a new market, you must make sure you’re not going to infringe on anyone else’s IP. Search the trademark register. Think about whether any of the products or processes you’re using could be protected by a patent or a registered design. Ask yourself whether you need to do a freedom of information to operate a search.
If you are using other people’s IP in your business, do you have appropriate licenses in place?
If you’re using open source licenses, make sure you are using them following any terms that apply to them. Will having open-source software woven through your software be a problem if you want to sell your software in the future?
3. Tailor your IP protection to your brand
There’s a range of IP protection available, and every business’ perfect matrix of protection will be unique to them. But every business has a brand.
Your brand is your reputation. It’s how you keep your customers coming back to you, and how your customers will recommend you to others. So choose a good one, and protect it wisely.
Think about its distinctiveness, as this will influence how broad your protection for it can be. Think about all the ways you might want to use it in the future, including if it works in all your target markets.
Your brand will have many different elements – words, logos, colours, packaging. Know what matters to you, and protect it accordingly.
It’s clear from Laura’s advice that budgeting a little money and spending some time on your IP strategy at an early stage can provide a strong foundation for future growth. For more support with questions about intellectual property, head over to HGM’s website.
This blog post was written by Laura Briggs, part of the Community Team at GridAKL / John Lysaght. With a special contribution from and thanks to Laura Carter of HGM Legal.