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Updated by Archer Law on Jun 19, 2020
Headline for Five Steps to Secure Your Startup’s Intellectual Property
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Five Steps to Secure Your Startup’s Intellectual Property

Startup founders and firms often get their start with a great, complex, and innovative idea. Protecting that idea, however, is often even more important than finding the investors to back it up. There are a number of steps you can take to ensure you retain ownership over your company’s intellectual property. Below, we review five crucial steps to get started.

1

Create ownership documents

Getting a startup off the ground is often a collaborative enterprise, and requires a close working relationship with a number of professionals and advisors. It’s not uncommon for some of these collaborators - particularly those who were part of the endeavor’s early days - to claim ownership rights in the company. Avoid the costly expense of future litigation over ownership rights by creating documents that clearly establish ownership rights in the company and its intellectual property, and be sure all third parties sign.

2

Research securing a patent

There are quite a few intricacies related to patent protection. For example, you cannot secure valid patent protection if you publicly disclose an idea before you’ve filed a patent application. If you decide to hold an investor call and make that call open and available to the public, or go to the press before your patent is registered, you will likely forfeit your right to the patent. Be sure you’re familiar with all patent requirements before making any major moves.

3

Determine whether your idea can be patented

A patent is not as easy to secure as a copyright. In order to obtain a patent, your idea or solution must be truly new and innovative. It must also fall specifically under patent eligible subject matter, which varies by country and state. For example, you may be hard-pressed to obtain a patent if your idea is far too abstract or relates too closely to phenomena that occur in science or nature.

4

Be mindful of time

Bear in mind that earlier patent applications often gain priority over applications that are filed late in the game. However, first to file often means you’re charting new territory, and getting a proof of concept is harder to do. Working with an IP attorney who can help you develop a clear strategy is a good approach to ensure you both obtain and secure your patent from future litigation.

5

Avoid infringing on others’ intellectual property

Before you take steps to operate your startup or file your patent, do some research to ensure that a similar patent or idea doesn’t already exist. Intellectual property litigation can be costly and time consuming, and significantly impacts your chances of being a successful startup venture. While it’s impossible to fully eliminate risk, you can mediate your risk by working with an attorney experienced in patent searches, and work collaboratively to identify strategies to work around existing protections.

Whether you’re just getting started or are well on your way to founding a new company and wish to secure your firm’s intellectual property, you’ll want to be sure you consider whether a patent is appropriate for your endeavor.

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    One of the largest law firms in the Delaware Valley and among the five largest in New Jersey, Archer serves businesses and individuals throughout the region and in an increasing number of other states and jurisdictions. With a network of regional offices, the firm has more than 200 lawyers practicing in all major legal disciplines.

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