As a startup company, your idea for a product or service is your ticket to success in the future. The intellectual property your company possesses is what sets you apart from the competition and gives you faith in the fact that your business can, and will, compete for consumers in your market. Given the importance of your product/service, it is vital that you take actions to protect that intellectual property. So, what advice should you follow to give your startup the security it needs?
Be Cautious of EPD
EPD, or Enabling Public Disclosure, is described by Forbes as “a legal term that means you have publicly shared enough about your product to allow someone with the same level of knowledge as another in the industry to copy your product.” For example, an industry trade show might seem like a great opportunity to introduce consumers to your new product, but it is also an opportunity for the competition (with potentially the same knowledge) to view and copy your product or service model.
What is your strategy for not only using, but protecting your intellectual property? Are you just going to unleash your product on the industry and trust that your suppliers, partners, and other business clients are going to respect your intellectual property? If so, you may find similar models or services popping up in your area soon. You need an effective strategy in place from the beginning to secure your products, such as contracts with suppliers and agreements with employees that the intellectual property of the company belongs to your business.
Trade Secrets are Cost-Effective Patents
Securing a patent for your intellectual property is a time-consuming process, and can cost your company a lot of money. A well-guarded secret offers the same level of protection to your business as a patent, assuming you put in the effort to keep your intellectual property a secret. The Houston Business Journal notes that nondisclosure agreements, non-compete clauses, and password-protected servers are strong options for protecting trade secrets, and skipping the patent process.
Don’t Overlook Address Location and Timing
There is no international patent office available that allows you to protect your intellectual property. If you’re going to do business in the US, register within the country and realize that your protection only extends to the nation’s borders. If you are operating outside the US (instead of or in addition to), you need to register separately in those countries to protect your intellectual property outside of America.
Additionally, you need to properly time your EPD and patent filings. If your EPD occurs before you have a patent in place (or at least pending), you are leaving a loophole open that can be exploited with disastrous consequences.
Build Good Relationships within the Business
Nondisclosure agreements and binding contracts only go so far in protecting your intellectual property. Yes, it does give you an avenue to sue or otherwise punish a rogue employee or shady supplier, but that won’t undo the damage done to your intellectual property. Take the time to build effective relationships with your staff and keep open lines of communication. Bring them into the fold and show them respect; make them feel like a part of the team. You are less likely to be burned by employees who value the role they play in a company’s success.
Without intellectual property, your business loses its competitive edge against other firms in your niche and the wider industry. Follow these tips and you’ll be able to secure your intellectual property now, so your startup can live on to become an established brand that everyone knows.