A quick guide to intellectual property

A contract or terms & conditions of Intellectual Property.

If you have intellectual property of any sort, without the right protection being in place, you may have no comeback if someone does decide to steal it from you. Some startup companies often fail to put into place frameworks that are required to for protection, only to pay out scores of cash in legal costs later, but by getting the right strategies in place at the earliest stage possible, this can be avoided. The field of intellectual property is vast and include everything from trademarks and patents to trade secrets. IP laws can vary from territory to territory too, so it’s important to do your research to identify what needs to be done in to protect your intellectual property in your particular region.

Do you need an IP lawyer?

There should be no room for ambiguity when it comes to intellectual property, but it your part of a new emerging startup, confusion can arise as to who owns what. For this reason, it’s important to clarify any relevant issues around this at the earliest possible point. This may mean drawing up ownership agreements. Many companies have suffered when ideas that were meant to be kept secret were let out into the open, so it can be wise to draw up documents such as non-disclosure agreements to ensure that you do have some legal comeback if sensitive information is discussed with others. If you have patentable ideas, this can be incredibly important, otherwise, a competitor could find out about your ideas and assume ownership of them.

Be clear from the outset

Patent applications can be expensive, which explains why so many people invest in the protection of a more affordable provisional patent. This gives you temporary IP protection without the fuss and cost. However, you will still need the help of an intellectual property lawyer even with a temporary application, but this can save you money in the long run due to the advice and expertise that you’ll be able to benefit from. Remember to add the copyright notice to everything that you publish too for further protection. Usually, a copyright notice on its own will suffice, but you may wish to invest in full copyright registration for anything that is particularly valuable to you. You may also find useful to be completely clear on ownership rights. If your staff or partners produce written content for you, they may be under the impression that they own the content – you can have a contract drawn up, however, to give your company full writes on anything that is produced under your roof.

Registering a trademark

There is a great value in companies’ trademarks as they are so personal to a brand. By registering them, you can prevent others from trading while using them. Before you do register your trademarks, however, you may need to ensure that they don’t, in fact, belong to someone else. There are various channels that can be used for this purpose and you could take a look at trademark databases and web domain registers. If in doubt, consult IP lawyers.