Intellectual property strategies for technology startups


Often, intellectual property issues are also among the most important aspects of starting a technology business. The issues that startups will need to deal with include developing a product, hiring qualified employees, raising capital, and many These and other issues can distract from the goal of getting a product to market before somebody else, make it more expensive, or interfere with the goal of just getting a product to market before someone else. The intellectual property of a technology startup is often the most valuable asset. The protection of your intellectual property can be a major factor in getting venture capital funding or preventing unfair competition from contemporaries. As we provide 10 critical intellectual property strategies in this article, we feel it’s important to share them with you.

1. Keep your employment work separate from your new idea

I understand how difficult it can be to give up a regular salary and take on long hours working on a startup without compensation. One of the biggest pitfalls that founders experience at the beginning of their company is when they start to work on their new idea over the same period they are employed by The intellectual property of your new company can be at risk due to conflicts of obligations. Getting the facts about what was accomplished, what resources were used, and where the founding work took place is crucial. Ensure that you understand that you are required to know about your obligations with respect to Generally, most businesses will require their employees to sign a Confidentiality and Invention Assignment Agreement, by which they acknowledge and agree that any new ideas and inventions developed by them related to the business of the firm shall be fully owned by that firm. If your employer does not explicitly approve side projects (without claiming an ownership right), using company resources and time for something other than your day job is not a good idea. It is common for people not to tell their employer about their new idea in order to keep their venture “under the radar.” This can be problematic, especially when the new enterprise is closely linked to the employer’s

2. Don’t let other people claim ownership of your IP or your company

It is not uncommon for new ideas to be developed from conversations with friends, in dorm rooms, or over drinks or coffee with other entrepreneurs. It is always fun to talk about interesting ideas with others and to learn from their perspectives. Often, informal discussions of these kinds lead people to submit funding applications together, to hold one another out as co-founders, and to mention equity shares loosely. In order to build a successful venture with a co-founder, you must agree on the terms of the relationship with that person. If you don’t do so now, you may have tremendous trouble down the road. Think of the founder agreement as a kind of pre-nuptial agreement. Below are the key deal terms you should include in some kind of written In what proportion does the company belong to whom? What percentage ownership is subject to vesting if I continue to be a part of To what extent do the founders have responsibilities and roles? Does the company or the other founder have the right to buy back some of the shares of that founder if he leaves? Which price can be negotiated? How much time will each founder have to devote to the company? Who are the founders entitled to receive salaries (if any)? Would you mind telling me how to change this? Decisions of the business that impact key initiatives and day-to-day operations will be made (majority vote, unanimous vote, or certain decisions will be under the discretionary power Is it possible to remove a founder from his position as an employee of a company? (In most cases, the Board of Directors would make this decision.) What assets or cash does each founder invest or contribute in the startup? How will the launch be evaluated? Can a founder violate the terms of their agreement if they are not living up to expectations? In what way does it get (Confidential binding arbitration is typically favored as a means of resolving disputes.) What is the goal and vision for the organization? Do all stakeholders agree that all intellectual property belonging to the company is owned by the company and, if not, how does it secure rights to the use of the technology developed for its own

Keeping informal or vague understandings without taking the time to document them can be dangerous. Talking about ownership stakes and sharing data with intimate friends and acquaintances should be handled with care. Keeping track of where ideas come from as well as any discussions about equity stakes is essential. To ensure that future investors have access to the information in a proposal submitted to a funding source, it is a good idea to keep a copy. The hard part If things change and a friend or colleague is no longer part of your initiative (in the event you have not planned on parting ways), you should write a message clearly explaining what your idea is, who is on it, and what their role is. Especially if you are in the process of launching an IPO or selling your company, resolving these sorts of issues at the beginning is more cost effective and less time-consuming than when you are about to file for an IPO.

3. Have contributors assign their IP to the company

It’s possible that a number of different parties will contribute intellectual property to your Further, it is common for innovation to occur prior to the formation of a new Except in case of agreement to the contrary, intellectual property rights belong to the person who created the work in the first place. states, such as California, employees who develop inventions on their own time get to retain intellectual property rights and can assign them to those inventions as long as the employee does not use the company’s It is even more beneficial to be an independent contractor. The assignment of all rights to the company can be ensured through written agreements. It is essential to have a written agreement for the assignment of certain types of intellectual property.

In order to succeed in business, startups must ensure they own the intellectual property rights. To clarify ownership, it is important to clearly identify the parties involved. It is important for a startup to comply with the following steps to ensure ownership of its intellectual property It should be agreed that any intellectual property created prior to incorporation be transferred to the company in writing. It often involves an exchange of money or shares in the company as a means of transfer. To ensure compliance with company policies, employees are required to sign Confidentiality and Invention Assignment agreements requiring the assignment of intellectual property as part of their employment agreements. All consultants/independent contractors should sign agreements that clearly state they will assign intellectual property developed for the company to the company (see Key Issues with Confidentiality and Invention Assignment Agreements for Employees.). Any business partners or joint development efforts should clearly state ownership rights of the business partners, including ownership of joint development efforts. (See Invention Assignment Agreements for Consultants, Key Issues.)

These agreements should also require the following:

Confidentiality means that confidential information belongs to the company and is not released to anyone except It may be required that any ideas, inventions and discoveries pertaining to the contract or employment are disclosed In addition, a statement of ownership rights over inventions, discoveries and ideas.

4. Evaluate your core assets and decide on the type of IP protection you need

Startups are prone to deferring IP investment as they strive to minimize burn rate. Ever wary of minimizing burn rate, technology startups may be tempted. Most startups forfeit their rights to intellectual property because they fail to protect their hard work, and intellectual property protection can seem complex and expensive to those who have never tried to protect it. It is possible to minimize the anxiety while protecting assets at the same time with simple and cost-effective techniques. The first step in improving your intellectual property strategy is to critically evaluate the value proposition of your company and the intellectual property assets that contribute to it. It can also prove critical for securing your core assets by raising funds through this type of analysis. It is sometimes believed that patent protection is the only way for companies to protect themselves. Startups in the technology industry often overlook the value of intellectual property that is not patentable. It is true it can be extremely valuable to have a patent, but this does not guarantee that a company’s product All forms of IP have the potential to be protected, such as trade secrets, cybersecurity policies, trademarks, and copyrights. Over the long haul, it can be quite important to take the time to evaluate the company’s value proposition as well as the best way to protect it.

Here is a summary of the types of intellectual property available.

There are patents. Obtaining a patent is the best protection you can get for a new product. With a patent, its inventor has the right to prevent others from making, using, or selling the invention as detailed in the In determining whether you can obtain a patent, you will need to consider the following A patent may only be assigned to the concrete embodiment of an idea, formula, or product It must be a new or novel invention (1) An invention must not have been published previously in a printed publication or patented (2) A useful purpose must be related to the invention. It is in the U.S. that you obtain a patent. There are several things to consider when filing a patent with the Patent and Trademark Office, and this can take several years. For the purpose of filing a patent application, you normally need the services of a patent lawyer.

Rights to copy. These rights apply to original works of authorship, such as books, articles, music, movies, software, and art. A copyright gives the owner the right to make copies of the work as well as to prepare derivative works (such as sequels or revisions) based on that

Those are trademarks. Trademark rights protect the symbolic value of a word, name, symbol, or device that is used by a trademark holder to identify or distinguish their goods from The Coca-Cola trademark, the American Express trademark, and the IBM trademark are all well known trademarks. It is only when you use a trademark in commerce that you acquire ownership rights. Federal registration offers some advantages, but you do not need to register the mark in order to get rights to it. It is illegal for a U.S. entity to use a mark registered in another country. It is part of the Intellectual Property

They are used to identify products and services. A service mark is similar to a trademark and is used to identify a service.

Share secrets with each other. Having a trade secret can be an excellent asset for startups because they are cost-effective, and they last for as long as they are treated as confidential and provide value. In order to enforce a trade secret right, the owner of the right can take action against anyone who breaches an agreement or confidentiality relationship, or in any other way obtains secret information improperly. There are all sorts of trade secrets, from customer lists to computer programs to the Coca-Cola formula.

We have confidentiality agreements. In addition to non-disclosure agreements, these are also known as non-disclosure agreements. According to the terms of the agreement, the holder of confidential information is allowed to share it with a third party (such as a business or product idea). The third party would still be required to keep the information confidential and not use it in any way unless they are permitted to do so by the owner. It is usually possible to exempt yourself from the confidentiality obligations (for example, if the information is already public).

Employees and consultants are required to sign confidentiality agreements. Such an agreement should be required of everyone who works for the company or consults for the company, as discussed above in Section 3.

The terms and privacy policies appear on every page of the website. your company conducts its business over the internet, it is important to have a website terms of service agreement that limits what users can do on your website and what they can do with information on your site. Your Privacy Policy should outline what privacy protections are provided to visitors to your website.

It is often a very material issue for investors and acquirers to know what your IP is and how it is protected. Disclosure schedules often need to be used to reveal assets. (See The Importance of Disclosure Schedules in Mergers and Acquisitions.) To assure everyone knows what the company has, it is a good practice to save copies of everything here

Having access to patents and patent applications, including patent numbers, jurisdictions covered, filing, registration, and issue dates, is a great advantage. Employees and consultants are required to sign confidentiality and invention assignment agreements. A trademark or service mark is any sign of ownership. The securing of trade secrets and proprietary know-how by third parties. Technology licenses granted by third parties to the seller. A technology license is a contract between a company and a third party. It involves a variety of software applications Third party IP indemnification contracts provide for indemnification for third parties. Software open source that is used in or used in the creation of the seller’s Infringement of intellectual property, such as litigation and arbitration of IP disputes. The domain names listed below are listed in alphabetical order. Whether the IP is encumbered by liens or encumbrances. A source code escrow or an object code escrow. The social media accounts are Twitter, Facebook, and

5. Make sure you have a great name

The market can place a great deal of value on your brand. If startups want to use their name and logo in commerce, they should ensure that they are clear. Among the steps for avoiding naming issues are Do a Google search for the name to see if there are any other companies using it. Visit the U.S. and search there. Visit the Office of Patents and Trademarks website to see if your proposed name is already registered. Search the Secretary of State records of all companies or LLCs operating in the states where the company will be doing business to see if anyone else is using the same To find out if your preferred name is available, go to or another domain registrar. This is very problematic and raises a red flag if the “.com” domain name is already taken. You should choose a name that stands out and is If you want to have a trademark search professionally done, have your intellectual property lawyer do it for you. Make sure you do not choose a name that is too limiting that you will have to alter it later as the company grows or changes. Name five companies you like, and share them with prospective employees, partners, shareholders, and customers to see how they react. If you plan to employ a name that will be offensive in another language, the name should be considered (you don’t want to leave a bad impression). The name should not be spelled in an unusual way. There is a good chance that this will cause problems or confusion in the future. and Yahoo have been successful with unusual names, such success is often more of an exception rather than a

Registration of trademarks is a must for startups that are allowed to use names and logos. The advantages of trademarks go beyond stopping competitors from using a young company’s name. They also assist in building a distinct and recognizable brand for the company, which promotes its visibility. Creating a record as an early user of a name and logo can also be done. In addition, trademarks do not cost as much as other forms of intellectual property. There are fees as low as $225 to file an application with the Patent and Trademark Office.

6. Patent strategy should be cost-effective and not avoided

It is important for a company to be able to protect its patents. The idea that patent portfolios can provide offensive benefits is prevalent. Essentially, patent portfolios provide an opportunity to box out competitors with similar technologies. In addition to their defensive benefits, patents have extensive benefits for innovators. An offensive patent portfolio, for example, can provide a startup with an important bargaining chip in the event that a competitor sues for patent infringement. Depending on how it is done, this could result in a startup securing favorable terms for settling its debt or securing a cross-license opportunity. In the event of litigation, it may also offer the option of filing counterclaims. The question that people commonly ask is, What is the optimal number of patents to file? A lot of companies spend exceptionally large sums of money on patents on a wide range of topics. Some people do not spend a penny. It is common for both of these decisions to be erroneous. It would take considerable time, resources, and money to develop a wide-ranging patent portfolio for a technology startup. It will also likely take a long time to provide a return on investment. Patent filings that are inexpensive, but badly written, also fail to generate value for startups. This means that startups should seek patents that are directed to the core benefits of an It is also a best practice to seek out patent claims that can be successfully It is imperative that you are able to gather sufficient information about a competitor’s product to determine whether it is infringing on your patent. Starting a patent protection process does not have to be expensive for startups. In the case of a startup, they can submit a short and focused document often referred to as a “provisional application.” A provisional application is simply a description (it can also be a manual or an architectural sketch) of their technology. You can use this preliminary filing to show when you invented your technology, and you get a year before you have to put together more formal documentation needed for a patent application. Young companies are also able to strategically utilize the U.S. justice system because of its lengthy and expensive prosecution process. A program referred to as “Track One” by the Patent and Trademark Office. In this program, startups can get a patent within one year of filing, as an alternative to waiting years for a full examination of their application. Companies with patented ideas may be afraid of “patent trolls” if the nature of their business allows it. It is not necessary to own your own patent in order to be protected against someone else’s Check out low-cost services that can assist you if you are concerned about patent trolls. Patent infringement insurance can be rather expensive and difficult to procure however, there are numerous low-cost and free strategies that can be used to protect the company from patent trolls. There are some vendors, such as LOT Network, that are free to small businesses. There are also other organizations worth considering, such as RPX and Unified Patents. This type of service can be a valuable addition to the protection provided by firms of certain types.

7. Consider a global patent strategy, including China

A global strategy, even at the beginning stage, is crucial for startups to keep in mind. Many startups skip over international standards in favour of protecting their inventions quickly and cost-effectively. So, when a startup begins to try to expand international markets, it may find itself without protection in important countries further down the road. If a company fails to understand what international protection it needs before filing, the timeframe for international applications may expire, which will permanently bar the company from obtaining protection abroad. You cannot protect your invention internationally unless you speak to your patent attorney. Those of you who manufacture hard goods (as opposed to software) may want to consider applying for patent protection on Chinese products. Some claim that China is not a good place for intellectual property protection. Although the law and remedies for protecting intellectual property are rapidly evolving in China, the challenge is still present. The cost of obtaining Chinese patents is usually quite low. The acquisition of patents in China can be beneficial to anyone who intends to operate in that country.

8. Take care in using open source software

Open source software may be incorporated into the code of startups in developing software. The use of open source software is generally free and often speeds up the development process. You should read the license carefully, however, because open source software is free. The open source code could be used in a way that violates the license, which can result in a breach of contract or infringement of copyright for startups. A startup is at risk of inadvertently converting proprietary code into open source software if it uses an open source code for a customized product under certain open source licenses. A startup’s intellectual property rights are lost, but its proprietary and confidential code can be made public as well. Thus, any software development company must be aware of the risks to its development team and must enact strict protocols regarding when and how open source may be used.

9. Only litigate IP disputes out of principle in rare cases

It is difficult to concentrate on work when dealing with lawsuits, which can be both a time and money sink for companies. There is always a sense of being taken advantage of when someone leaves you under questionable circumstances, a business partner breaks a deal, or a patent troll sues you for a disproportionate amount of money. Basically, everyone gets riled up. The boss gets angry, employees get angry, and “policy” Getting caught up in such strong emotions starts a dialogue that “we need to fight it on principle.” Except in the rarest of cases (i.e. when the opposing side cannot have a business-level conversation), fighting on principle should be avoided. As a result, the company will spend tons of money and have core employees focused on litigation instead of expanding the company. It is normal for litigation to take a long time and cost a lot. The principle of a case is extremely important to business executives at the beginning of a case. It is often the case that the company feels quite differently after nine months, $1 million in legal fees, and no progress in the case. In case you feel the need to litigate, remember to look at the long term. You should only file a lawsuit as a last resort or in situations where the potential gain is significant.

10. Be careful in hiring new employees

When you hire new employees, especially from competitors, you have to be very careful. It is in your interest not to become the target of litigation from the prior employer who believes that your company is using his confidential or proprietary information. Here are some things to keep in mind Check to see if the employee is bound by a relevant You should require the new employee to attest that she or he is not bringing over any confidential or proprietary information or files from their previous You could ask the new employee to promise not to use any confidential or proprietary information of any third parties. Make sure you thoroughly check the references of a new employer before committing to them.


Leave a Comment