When should a startup consider intellectual property? The answer is right away! Every startup begins with two critical questions: (1) What do we sell? and (2) What do we call ourselves? Both questions involve important intellectual property considerations.

Patent Implications

First, evaluate if your product or service infringes on any existing patents. If it doesn’t, determine its patentability through a prior art search and patentability report from a patent attorney. Decide whether a patent or a trade secret is more suitable. If you prefer 20 years of exclusivity with public disclosure, choose a patent. If public disclosure is not an option, consider a trade secret. Assess whether the cost of obtaining a patent is justified by the potential benefits. If it is, file a provisional or non-provisional patent application and mark your products with ‘patent pending.’

If your product or service does infringe on an existing patent, verify the patent’s validity. Patents can sometimes be abandoned due to missed maintenance payments or invalidated by prior publications. If the patent is valid, you have two options: redesign your product to avoid infringement or negotiate a license with the patent holder.

For the design of your product, follow a similar process. Ensure your design does not infringe on existing patents. If it doesn’t, decide if obtaining a design patent is worthwhile. If it is, file the application. If your design does infringe on a valid patent, either redesign your product or negotiate a license.

Trade Secrets

For products or services that can be sold without revealing how they work, like the Coca-Cola recipe, trade secrets might be the best route. Ensure everyone who has contact with the trade secret signs a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) and that the secret is securely stored.

Trademarks

When choosing your business name, check if it is already in use. If not, mark your business name with a TM and file either an intent to use or a use-based trademark application. If the name is already in use, verify its validity. Consider whether the businesses are competitors or in the same market and if there is a likelihood of consumer confusion. If the name is valid and within the same market, you can either do nothing and hope the other business does not enforce its rights, change your name, or negotiate with the other business for permission to use the name.

The same process applies to logos and unique names for products or services. Ensure your chosen logo or name is not already in use, mark it with a TM, and file the appropriate application. If it is in use, verify its validity and consider your options, including changing it or negotiating with the other business.

By addressing these intellectual property considerations early, startups can strategically protect their innovations and establish a strong market position from the outset.

Protect Your Startup’s Future with Jones Intellectual Property

When should a startup consider intellectual property? The answer is right away! Every startup begins with two critical questions: (1) What do we sell? and (2) What do we call ourselves? Both questions involve important intellectual property considerations. At Jones Intellectual Property, we help you navigate these crucial decisions from the very beginning, ensuring that your innovations and brand identity are protected. Secure your startup’s future by partnering with us today. Contact Jones Intellectual Property to get started on safeguarding your business’s most valuable assets.

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Michael Jones Michael Jones is the founder and managing member of Jones Intellectual Property, whose mission is to provide his clients with personalized, effective legal solutions. Michael has focused on creating, protecting, and advocating for his clients’ intellectual property rights throughout his career. View Bio