How to Secure Startup Intellectual Property

Failure to secure your startup’s intellectual property is one of the most common mistakes made by early startups. Here are some things that startup companies (or any company) can do to protect their valuable startup intellectual property.

Tips on How to Secure Startup Intellectual Property

  • Make sure you have agreements with key contractors and key founders. It’s imperative that your startup enters into agreements with anyone who will be developing any intellectual property for the company that stipulate that their work product is either work-made-for-hire (where appropriate), or that assigns any and all rights in that intellectual property to the startup. Absent such an agreement, you could eventually find yourself in the awkward position of discovering that a patent, trademark, or copyright that is vital to your startup’s success actually belongs to the third party that developed it.
  • Be careful about moonlighting. If you are an early-stage startup and are still working a day job, do not use your employer’s time or resources to develop your startup unless you have unambiguous permission, in writing, to do so. Review any employment contracts carefully to make sure your employer cannot make a claim on intellectual property that you develop while employed, otherwise your startup’s intellectual property could end up being at the center of an epic legal battle.
  • Do a search for trademarks. If you are developing a good or service, you will almost certainly want to register a trademark to protect your brand and take advantage of the benefits of trademark registration. Do a search for trademarks before developing your good or service to ensure that you’ll be able to register it.
  • Ensure that you protect trade secrets with confidentiality agreements. Along with patents, trademarks, and copyrights, you should also take steps to protect your startup’s trade secrets. Be sure that any party that will have access to your startup’s proprietary processes, customer lists, and methods of doing business signs a Non-Disclosure Agreement prohibiting them from sharing or exploiting your startup’s trade secrets. (And don’t forget, members of the Creators’ Legal Program get access to a free NDA template.)
  • Protecting your intellectual property is an ongoing process. It is important to reevaluate your intellectual property needs as your startup grows. As you create new products and services, you may need to file new trademarks, patents, and copyright registrations. You will also want to make sure your startup is taking the appropriate steps to maintain its trademarks, such as signing up for trademark monitoring.

Have you taken all of the steps necessary to protect your startup’s intellectual property? We are here to help you with contractor agreements, trademarks, NDAs, and more.