IPRs – Intangible yet Extremely Valuable
When setting up a startup, don’t underestimate the value of intellectual property, or “IP”. Your company may be eligible for patent, trademark, utility model, copyright and design protection – all of which are valuable assets, especially for startups. A thoroughly planned IP strategy will help you build you brand, help you get financing, and – further down the road – help you sell your company if such a situation would arise. If possible, register your rights – it provides you with more security and proof that you, in fact, are the owner of such rights. Patents, trademarks, designs, and utility models can all be registered, while copyright´s cannot (with the exception of a few countries).
Thorough Legwork Saves Money
When building your brand, make sure you choose a company name and trademarks that are not already taken or describe the goods or services you plan to put on the market. Descriptive trademarks are, for example, not accepted by registration authorities; a made-up name is safer. You should also remember to check that all relevant domain names are available before settling on a specific name for your company or product.
There are a number of helpful IP databases available that allows you to conduct searches for free, and if in doubt, you can always ask an IP professional for advice. Remember that if you don’t do the legwork before launching your product or starting a huge marketing campaign, the risk of getting Cease & Desist letters or law suits due to IP infringement is much greater. Worst-case scenario is that you end up pulling the infringing products from the market, re-branding your company and paying damages.
Disclosure Prevents Registration
A very important factor to remember is that any IP registration applications should be filed before you launch your product or service. For some IP rights, such as patents and designs, the application will not be accepted unless the innovation or design is new. Trademarks can be registered also after you have started using them, but in order to prevent others from steeling your idea, it is always better to plan ahead and file the papers in advance. After registering your rights, please be aware that it is very likely that you will receive fake invoices from companies posing as IP registration offices and asking for registration or similar fees. Don’t pay any invoices that seem fishy and check with an IP professional if you are unsure.
Lastly, use and utilize your IP! It increases the value of your brand and keeps the IP protection strong.
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