Protect your Startup with this Intellectual Property Crash Course

There is no doubt that protecting your company’s intangible assets makes for a sound business practice. However, even if you are in the early stages of your business, you should strongly consider protecting your intellectual property. Many infant companies and startups make the mistake of prioritizing their IP last, which often leaves them in difficult predicaments once they are better established. To avoid this, make sure to consult with IP attorneys during your company’s early stages. Until then, here are some informational tips on IP you should consider for your startup.

What is IP?

Intellectual Property – or IP for short – falls into four different categories which include: trademarks, patents, trade secrets, and copyrights. Copyrights protect original works of authorship. The holder of a copyright has the exclusive right to distribute and reproduce the copyrighted work. Patents are exclusive to inventions, granting property rights to the patent holder. The holder automatically excludes others from reproducing, selling, or using the invention without permission. Trademarks are phrases, symbols, or designs that identify with a brand or company. Owners of a trademark can enforce against the use or reproduction of the phrase or symbol. Trade Secrets are unique in the sense that they are not known to the public. A trade secret is a process, formula, or practice that gives a company a competitive advantage over its competition.


Create and use documentation to have a record of contracts and agreements used during the company’s early stages. This will prevent problems with original members that may have helped form ideas in your company. Also keep records of other important dates or milestones in your company to defend yourself in the case of infringement accusations.

Enabling Public Disclosure means that you have shared enough information about your product or service that others within your industry can copy the product. Information can be released in a tech show or exhibition. According to Mary Juetten of Forbes, it is a legal term that many startup leaders learn a little too late. You can no longer patent a product or invention one year after an EPD release.

Confidentiality Agreements are meant to protect your IP. According to Startup Runner, all involved parties should sign a mutual non disclosure agreement before any information on the IP is disclosed. In the case that the IP was discussed without such an agreement, make a detailed list of what was disclosed so that an attorney may assist you in IP protection.

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This article is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.