What Start-ups need to know about Intellectual Property

According to the latest edition of the World Intellectual Property Organisation Indicators Report, 2017 by the WIPO, China, United States, Japan, and Germany tops the list of the number of intellectual property registrations, with China leading in Patent filings, trademark and design registrations. When it comes to Patent Filings, the top spots after China go to USA and Japan; but for design registration, China is followed by Germany and the Republic of Korea. Undeniably, the start-up environment has to lead to the creation of several intellectual property assets, making it an important aspect of most budding ventures in the world.

Since businesses are diverse, what works for one brand might not work for another and it’s essential for new businesses to work on tailored intellectual property strategies that would suit their business.

Especially for tech and new media companies, intellectual property is a vital asset that has to be protected from being stolen or copied. A common mistake is to look at IP registration as a luxury expenditure, which could lead to a cascade of errors in the future, leading to more expenses. Similarly, protecting everything isn’t the solution. Since brands today operate in high-innovation and high-competition markets, a little forethought is required while planning the company’s IP.   

Key Intellectual Property Pressure-points

Intellectually property protection cannot be postponed and is a big deal. Any doubts and clarifications must be necessarily discussed with an attorney. But where do you begin? Here are a few places to start while dealing with intellectual property registration.

Understanding Patent

For start-ups trying to ‘create’ or ‘discover’ something new, patents become imperative to protect their work. But should everything be patented? The obvious answer seems like a yes since patents are the base for the company’s innovation. However, the answer might differ when considering the expenditure that would go into patent registration. Possibly since start-ups have more to lose they rush into hasty patent registration filings.

What should you patent?

Instead, a more logical move would be to understand the competition in the market and base your patent decision on the market value of the product or invention. For instance, if the innovation would help you beat the competition, help you create a niche in the market, or is more likely to be copied by competitors, then patenting is a good idea. However, if your invention is more futuristic, and you don’t plan to bring out the product in the near future, then the decision can be deferred for a few months. For instance, Apple filed a patent for heart rate and blood pressure monitoring device in 2018. In actuality, the research was completed several years before, but the company still deferred their filing. This is because they had no plans to bring out the product, and more so, similar products had already been introduced in the market, so this particular invention, while impressive, was not going to steer the consumer away from other brands.

Don’t ignore Trademarks

After company incorporation, a new company might often create a different brand name. Know that this unique brand name is not covered by a company registration and must be protected through a trademark registration. Most companies postpone this exercise until they become well established. However, the problem with this strategy is that it becomes difficult to change the brand name later in case it’s found that a similar trademark already exists. So, for a new company that has just seen a bit of popularity, a change in the brand name might lead to a loss in sales and customer base.

Create a Trademark Strategy

While it isn’t necessary to trademark all brand assets, you can create a trademark strategy by sitting with your lawyer. Your attorney will identify assets that are important to be trademarked and other assets that can potentially turn into a brand asset to be trademarked at a later date

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