It’s the beginning of one of the most anticipated weeks of the year, Slush week. Slush is now the Finnish business event of the year, having come a long way from a small underground event to one of the biggest tech and entrepreneur events in the Europe only in eight years.
No matter what exactly your start-up is doing, intellectual property (IP) is going to be relevant at some point. In the rush of getting your company going and putting your idea on the map, it can be easy to forget to protect the results of your work. That can be a costly, maybe even fatal, mistake.
Protect Your Trademarks
Trademarks are the cornerstone of brand building and add value to your company, but only if they’re properly protected. Registering a trademark is fairly easy and the fees won’t break the bank, but all too often start-ups don’t think to do it early enough.
By not registering your trademarks in time, you’re leaving yourself wide open to competitors who will be able to take advantage of the recognition and brand you’ve worked to build. On the other hand, it’s also crucial to make sure that your company isn’t violating anyone else’s trademarks. If you think getting your trademarks organised is a hassle, just wait till you’re in the middle of an expensive trademark dispute that could put your business on hold for months or, at worst, kill it.
Make Sure Your IPs Are Really Yours
The second issue that the start-ups too easily forget is that the IPs are not automatically transferred from your sub-contractors or employees and managers to the company. A start-up should early on put together a scheme for transferring IPs to the company itself and implement the scheme through separate agreements.
State clearly and unambiguously in your sub-contracting, employee, management and shareholder agreements that the title to IP is transferred to the company. Licensing or buying the rights later on may turn out to be costly and difficult.
If you’re an investor, it’s not a bad idea to check that transfer clauses have actually been included in the company’s agreements and that the target company is the true IP proprietor.
Patent, Patent, Patent
Naturally, patents play a bigger role in some fields than others, but you should always check whether your innovations and products are patentable. What you need to remember is not to publicly disclose your invention before you apply for patents or utility models. Patents will help your start-up operate more freely without having to fear information leaks, and will give to you tools to act against product copying. What you also need to check is that your products or services do not infringe the rights of third parties. Patented innovations often also tend to increase the value of a company.
The better your start-up has protected its IP, the more value it will have, because the most valuable assets start-ups typically have are IP rights. A well-managed IP portfolio will also attract investments by reducing risks and is a signal of professionalism and quality—characteristics that will help your start-up gain the eye of investors in a competitive field of other eager newcomers.