So you’ve come up with an awesome idea for a startup. You know that you have the potential to be the next big thing. So you look at your budget and break down where you need to spend - be it marketing, networking events, hiring of staff or technology… but how safe is your very clever idea? Have you considered protecting it, to make sure that it does in fact remain yours in its entirety? Read on to find out more about Intellectual Property and how you can protect yourself and your startup.
So what exactly is intellectual property?
Intellectual property is something that you have created - an idea for a startup or a creation that is a product of your hard work and creativity. Your idea could be anything from a logo, a new innovative business concept or computer coding to a business model... whatever it is the benefit of it belongs to you and you alone.
Why do you need to protect your business growth?
Your creations are vital to the viability of your startup and its growth and development - if your ideas are stolen and reused this can have a considerable impact on the future success of your business. It is important therefore to protect your intellectual property rights to stop competitors from copying your ideas and benefiting from your hard work and success by passing off your ideas as their own.
You need to make the most of your ideas
Intellectual property rights protect your ideas and regulate how others can use them. This allows you, and you alone, to decide if and how your property can be used and in fact often provides you with a mechanism for earning financial benefit for such use.
Keep and own your ideas
With the ever growing use of the internet it is easier than ever before to access information and therefore it is crucial that your rights are protected as far as possible. At the end of the day the internet will allow your designs and ideas to reach a huge amount of people, and therefore there is a much greater chance of your ideas to be copied without your consent - your startup could soon become someone else’s...
What intellectual property rights are applicable to your business?
There are a number of different types of intellectual property rights, and which ones you choose to register depend on the type of startup or business you run. Below is a breakdown of the different types and how a legal practitioner specialising in intellectual property law would be able to help you.
Copyright exists in literary, artistic, musical and dramatic work - basically pretty much anything that is written down. Copyright could exist in everything from manuals, leaflets, advertisements, articles and books to computer coding, databases, technical drawings, films, or in fact anything you have designed or recorded.
A legal practitioner would help you to draft documentation to assign your intellectual property rights to someone else, as well as licensing agreements to allow them to use your copyright. They would also be involved should you need to defend your copyright (in the case where someone has infringed on it) as well as determine which countries your copyright is protected in.
A trademark is a registered mark that names you as the exclusive owner of the mark, preventing anyone else from using it and providing you with the basis to take action against anyone who does use it without your permission. A trademark could include a logo or phrase or a name, word, slogan, design or symbol associated with a brand.
But why would it be necessary to register your trademark? The ® mark shows customers and competitors that you are indeed serious about your startup business and its intellectual property and that you can’t afford to lose your business, brand or product name. This could happen should someone else with a similar or even the same name register to your mark, selling similar goods.
Having a Registered Trademark offers you greater protection than afforded by the common law right of passing off, by making it easier to establish if an infringement has occurred. It also provides wider protection against domain name squatters.
So how can a legal practitioner help? Well, firstly they can provide you with comprehensive advice and assistance with registering your trademark, such as trademark searches, a watching service to notify you should any infringements take place, and of course they will be able to defend or start legal proceedings on your behalf should this be the case.
What about the law of passing off?
When you have an unregistered design but you have built up substantial goodwill, you are protected from infringement by the law of passing off. You have to demonstrate however that you have sufficient goodwill in a design and that the infringer is using your design and ‘confusing’ people as to its ownership.
A great example of this was when in 2013 pop star Rihanna successfully sued retailer Topshop for their use of her image on their T-shirts. It was found that the substantial number of purchasers who were likely to have been deceived into buying the t-shirt due to a false belief that Rihanna had authorised the use of the image would be damaging to Rihanna’s goodwill.
Should this happen to your startup business a legal practitioner would be able to firstly determine whether there is in fact good will in your design and then, should that be the case, negotiate and bring proceedings against an infringing party.
Believe it or not, the information that is stored systematically on your computer is also protected if you have spent a substantial amount of investment into obtaining, verifying and presenting the contents of that database.
Again, a legal practitioner would be the person to go to in order to defend or start proceedings on your behalf in relation to database right infringements.
Make sure you are protected
So there you have it. Having the next big idea is not enough. We know that many startups have small budgets, but spending a small portion of it on protecting your Intellectual Property is a very savvy investment. Firstly, it shows potential investors that you truly believe in your idea, and secondly, it protects you from having your idea stolen - after all as a startup you are likely to be sharing your idea with many people whilst trying to improve on it and get it out there, and you never know where there might be a snake in the grass, ready to pounce and call it their own. So make sure that you retain everything that is yours - your hard work, your brand and your awesome idea.
For more information contact us…
0207 426 0382