Business & Investment

START UPS: Steps to take to protect your intellectual property (IP)?

Intellectual Property (IP) preparation steps for startups should be handled in the same way they are handled for larger corporations, with a focus of staying within the budget.

IP Decisions Need to be Made Early

Startups require many decisions to be made to form your business, and the earlier in the process, the better. One of the many important determinations that need to be made is what your IP means to your specific business and to your business model. By delaying this decision, or by not addressing it early on in your business, it has the potential to create some big issues and problems later on within your company.

Your business needs to be very clear, and have specific answers to any questions, on issues regarding your IP. This will be very important information to provide to any potential investors or, at a future time, potential buyers, should you decide to sell your business.

Registering your IP Rights

Should you register your IP rights, or is that something that is not of great importance to you? Some start-ups choose to not register their IP, which could be perfectly acceptable to their organisation. Perhaps they might foresee having a specific exit strategy in their future, such as selling their business into a larger organisation which has its own house brands, which already have their own particular trademarks in existence. Or, alternatively, maybe the IP is very important to have trademarked, as its brand name adds value to the start-up itself.

How to Avoid Any IP Issues

Start-ups face different potential IP issues than larger companies do. If a start-up company has any mistakes, it can negatively affect the company with a bigger impact than a larger company may experience. Start-up companies that have hiccups with their IP can experience more severe repercussions which can cripple their business.

One significant investment of both time and money is to seek out great IP advice and counsel from a reputable patent attorney who is well versed in the IP industry. These advisors can help you avoid any potential disasters regarding patent infringement. They can investigate any possible opportunities to license a patent or, on the flip side, help you avoid any issues regarding using a patent protected property that may already exist in other markets you may be seeking to enter. This holds especially true if you are interested in pursuing the expansion your company’s reach into other areas or countries.

Insuring your Start-Up

Protecting your overall business is also critical. In addition to your IP rights, your complete start-up needs to be properly insured to protect all that you have built. This can include protection of equipment of office IT equipment critical to business operations. A Comprehensive business insurance should protect your business and give you the peace of mind you need in order to focus on each aspect of your company, to move it forward, and make it ultimately successful.

Prioritise your IP Spending

Because start-ups need to be keenly aware of their budget on all their objectives, the company’s IP spend needs to be executed wisely. Not all start-ups can freely spend large sums on a full suite of IP protection. 

It’s critical to understand the value of your IP to your business. In fact, your IP may be the biggest value that your company possesses in its beginning.

IP Protection Options

There a many options available to protection your company’s IP. It’s critical to understand in the beginning what the options are, what are the benefits of each, and how much will it cost to secure the type of protection you need. It is crucial to know what you need and how much you can afford so as to not overextend your business.

Here are a few inexpensive options to be considered:

  • Utilising NDA’s (non-disclosure agreements) to ensure that your IP is not shared or misused.
  • Installing and protecting your IT firewalls to make sure your trade secrets are secured.
  • Protect your manuals and source code by using free copyrighting.

Perhaps the best and most secure form of protection is by keeping all of your IP secrets… a secret. Losing all of your IP secrets to a competitor can be devastating.

Intellectual property theft can cost companies millions of dollars and can rob the company of decades worth of work and development.

By neglecting to protect your IP, you open your company up to the possibility of having years of hard work, and huge sums of money, potentially being stolen by others. It is essentially the same as leaving your office door unlocked at night and allowing anyone to come in and take what you’ve worked so hard to create.

Important steps to take to secure your IP include:

  • Determine what needs to be protected and get it done early.
  • Identify your IP budget to protect these assets and execute it.
  • Establish which of the IP rights have the ultimate importance and value to your business, and what the maximum impact of these rights are to your company.

Vision of your Start-up’s Future

Knowing what sets your company apart from the competition, and what makes your business special, is critical to understand and protect from the start. Securing your IP in the very beginning stages of your start-up is crucial to the success of your business – which is why it’s so important to get this done before the public is made aware of your company.

If your product, service, or invention is especially unique – and never been done or seen before – you will definitely need a very comprehensive type of IP protection. Making sure that you fully understand and appreciate your IP is essential to utilising the most secure and appropriate protection to support your IP rights. 

Taking the time to execute a comprehensive IP strategy, and proactively protecting the value of your IP, establishes your startup’s reputation. Ultimately, it may also make your company very attractive potential buyers and increase the value of your business.

In addition to protecting your IP, it’s critical to identify and maintain suitable business insurance for your company. Quotes for insurance can be obtained from a range of sources. You can contact the insurance companies directly, however, this generally involves a lot of running around if you want to compare quotes from a variety of insurers.

A better option for many business owners is to use an insurance broker or adviser who can obtain quotes on your behalf from a wide range of companies offering insurance. BizCover has access to a network of insurance companies and can quickly provide you with many policy options to choose from to secure the most suitable insurance to your business.

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Ifiokobong Ibanga

Ifiokobong Ibanga is the founder of InfoGuideNIgeria.com. InfoGuide Nigeria is a team of Resource Persons and Consultants led by Ifiokobong Ibanga. Page maintained by Ifiokobong Ibanga. If you need a personal assistance on this topic, kindly contact us.

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