As a leading international law firm focussing on business sectors where technology plays a key role, we work with some of the most inventive and innovative companies and brands in the world – in many cases from the early stages of the business through to international recognition. This gives us a unique insight into the issues start-ups face at the start of their journey along the innovation process, and also means we can help identify, and therefore help companies prepare for, the issues that may arise in the future.
Set out below is a non-exhaustive checklist of questions that every start-up should be asking itself at the start of the innovation process, throughout development, and onwards to market launch.
Idea Generation: So you’ve had the idea – now what?
- How can you protect your idea?
- What intellectual property rights (IPRs) are there in the product/solution? Can they be formally protected by way of registration (and what is the cost of that)?
- Is there a product/solution already out there that your idea conflicts or competes with? Would you be infringing someone else’s IPRs with your idea?
- Who owns the business?
- If there are multiple founders, what is the arrangement regarding ownership and control? What will happen if someone wants to leave (or the other founders want them to leave)?
- What kind of corporate structure should be put in place? Is this appropriate for the international growth of your business? What are the tax implications of your chosen corporate structure?
Development: Putting the idea into practice
- Engaging with external resource
- If you are using third parties to assist in the development of the product/solution (e.g. a software developer, marketing agent etc.), do you have, and use, binding non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements?
- If those third parties are inputting on the product/solution, do you own all of the output (especially IPRs) from their work?
- If you are hiring employees, how do you protect your IPRs and confidential information if and when those employees leave?
- How do you finance the business?
- If you need external funding, what are the external funding options available? (Click here for further information on this.)
- Are you still protecting your idea?
- As your product/solution has been developed and refined, are your protections valid and appropriate? Do you need to re-evaluate your protection strategy now that your product/solution is closer to finalisation?
Implementation: Going to market
- Selling your product/solution
- What regulations apply to the sale of your product/solution in each market you are selling it?
- What is your customer base? Are you selling to other businesses, directly to consumers, or both? Are you complying with the (different) laws that relate to both?
- Do you have standard terms and conditions for sale/supply that protect your business?
- Is the financing of the business appropriate?
- Now that you have a revenue stream, should you re-evaluate your financing model?
By taking the time to think about these questions at the start of the process, a start-up will be giving itself the best possible chance to succeed.