Intellectual Property (IP) is one of many crucial legal considerations for start-ups. While a lot of small companies are able to create IP soon after start up, many do not take necessary measures to protect their ideas.
As IP is broadly defined, there is considerable room for mistakes and oversights. You need to systematically protect your creations:
1. Educate yourself
Even though it is advisable to leave the big decisions to a professional adviser, learn about the IP basics like patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets. Get familiar with the UK patent office website, this can help in assisting finding out about the submission requirements and what patents are pending, as well as the Unified patent for EU companies.
2. Protect yourself
As well as protecting your own IP rights, you need to be careful that you are not infringing anyone else’s. When developing new products, ensure other businesses are not seeking to registry a patent that would mean you can no longer complete the product. If the rights are not secure, your business should act quickly.
3. Keep sensitive information secret
Sometimes, trade-secret protection is the least expensive, but most important, protection for a small business. You should learn about ways to identify and keep confidential your new business’ most sensitive information.
4. Seek professional advice
As IP is a large area, it is common for businesses to use an IP expert to discuss issues and legalese you may not understand. Areas you may not have previously been aware of, can be brought to clarity with useful advice.
5. Read the contract and understand it
Many contracts will affect your business, such as hiring advertising agencies, website developers, computer programmers, design engineers and consultants. Due to this complex network of contracts, full understanding of all of them and contract drafting of further contracts is a must.
6. Use non-disclosure agreements (NDA)
NDA’s will allow you to contractually obligate signatories to refrain from disclosing confidential information without the disclosing party’s expressed consent.