From the first inception of an idea for your business through to each stage of development and growth, protecting the ideas of your technology startup requires true diligence. As the focus of your business is on innovation and growth, it’s best to have the support of a startup lawyer to ensure your ideas are protected from inception. It’s in your best interest to understand legal protection mechanisms for ideas, so here are 5 ways a startup can protect their intellectual property.
1. Define who will own the copyright before coding begins.
For tech or any startup where proprietary software or applications are at the heart of the business, it’s imperative to define the person or entity that will own the copyrights on the code before coding begins. As you sketch out an idea either as part of the startup planning and any software product development, it’s best to involve a lawyer for your business startup as early as possible. This ensures establishment of evidentiary records of creation, and assigns authorship for copyright verification.
2. Register a trademark for your brand.
Many tech startups begin with one to three people developing an innovative product idea they think will take the technology world by storm. It’s vital to handle business and product name development and trademarking in tandem. The guidance of a startup lawyer to help register a trademark in early development stages is part of the process. The last thing a business needs is to lose a product or business name to someone that beats them to the trademark filing process. Even worse is having it stolen from underneath you by someone who sees the potential in what you are doing. This can be critical as a startup seeks investor interest. A proactive trademark search is part of the protection process to avoid brand repositioning that can jeopardize the product and the business.
3. Filing Patents quickly and quietly.
Many startup entrepreneur developers are often more technology development oriented than business oriented. Thus they spend time talking, learning and bouncing ideas off of other like- minded developers. While this process supports innovative ideas and product development, it can also hamper the ability to patent the eventual solution. Having an entrepreneur lawyer as part of your circle as the ideas are being developed can enable you to identify the earliest point when a patent can be filed.
This helps to avoid potential theft or infringement of a patentable idea or design element by others before you can begin your own patent process. The goal is to plan the patent process as the idea develops to move quickly and quietly to the filing process at the right time. An innovative entrepreneur without legal support can be beat to the filing process by a mediocre derivative idea generator. That’s why it’s always best to file quietly and keep any early pronouncements to a minimum regarding innovative ideas to avoid being beaten by a competitor in the filing process.
4. File for patent protection for each added feature.
In technology development and the software development life cycle, changes and improvements to a product can happen fast and unexpectedly for startups focused on creating the best product. A startup lawyer on your team can help to ensure product or feature improvements added to new product releases have updated patent protection to keep the IP under your legal protection.
5. Use a nondisclosure agreement (NDA).
Business and product ideas are often intertwined, but that doesn’t mean both can be protected as IP, which is where nondisclosures agreements come in. The development stage of a startup and the product often happen in tandem. So even if you’re working alone, there are inevitable third parties you must work with to make ideas come to fruition.
By working with a lawyer for a business startup, you can draw up an NDA for signing by developers, employees and any others you share your idea with before any work begins. This is also an important step as you seek out potential investors. An NDA will ensure they are legally bound to keep any IP information you share with them private as they determine the suitability of your startup for investment.
All five of these ways to protect your startup’s ideas are about maintaining a dual business and innovation mindset. Having a skilled lawyer for business startup involved from idea inception is the best way to help maintain that mindset and protecting your intellectual property.