Protecting Intellectual Property Rights in a Startup: Is It Worth It?
It’s no secret that protecting intellectual property can be time consuming and expensive. When you’re just starting out in business—say if you’ve got a startup you’re trying to get off the ground—time and money are two things you probably can’t spare. According to the Lean Startup Methodology, focusing on getting your product to market quickly with minimal investment is the best way to help your startup business succeed right out of the gate.
Do these two factors—IP protection’s time and expense requirements and the Lean Startup Methodology’s focus—put intellectual property rights and startup success at odds?
Protecting Intellectual Property Rights
When you’re just starting out in the business world, protecting yourself is more critical than when you’ve been an established name in your market for a few years. Part of that protection comes from getting the intellectual property rights to your ideas, image, and products. When you have these rights, any legal disputes can be more easily resolved. If you forego obtaining the rights to your property and a dispute arises, you will have to spend more time fighting in court. For startups, that can be an expensive endeavor, much more expensive than obtaining the rights from the get-go. When you start to think of IP protection as an investment rather than an expense, you can start to plan for the future.
Filing to Hold Your Place
Filing to protect your intellectual property rights will immediately protect you from IP theft. For instance, when you file for a patent, that patent application actually holds your place in line for that specific patent. From the date that you originally submit your patent application, you will have 12 months to expand on the filing. It’s important to remember that patents can take up to five years to be issued.
Auditing Your Assets: Trademark and Copyright Protection
While patents help companies protect their inventions, they are not the only protection that startups can access, and considering their price tag (think thousands of dollars), they are far from the most affordable option. For instance, if you want to protect the brand that you’ve created for your business, you can simply get a trademark. Trademarks protect words, phrases, symbols, or designs—really anything that distinguishes your brand from others on the market. One of the best things about trademarks is that, if you continue using them, they last virtually forever.
If, on the other hand, you make your living in a creative field, copyrights are where you want to focus. Copyrights protect works of authorship and composition, such as novels, plays, movies, songs, and even computer software. Depending on the type of work and circumstances of its creation, copyrights last anywhere from 70 to 120 years.
You can’t protect what you don’t know you have, and that means you should conduct an audit of all of your non-patentable intellectual property—both registered and unregistered trademarks and copyrights. A lot of startups don’t have the resources to conduct a full audit all at once, but that’s not a problem if you take it one step at a time. Smaller businesses can audit as they go, so that at least some of their property is protected as they expand.
Protecting your intellectual property is a complicated process, especially for startups that have limited resources. However, with experienced legal help, even small companies with small budgets can retain the rights to their property. At Gonzalez Law, we will work with you to protect what is important to you and your business while keeping your budget in mind. Call our offices if you need help protecting your intellectual property.