Wesley Chang

August 31, 2017

When to Protect Your Intellectual Property as a Hardware Startup

Intellectual property feature image

One of the most important issues startup founders have to face is protecting their property. First time entrepreneurs often question what they have to do in order to protect themselves and their ideas, and they’re in the right to do so. What a lot of entrepreneurs don’t realize is that there’s multiple types of intellectual property. However, there are two overarching forms of I.P.

The first form is Registrable Intellectual Property where patents, copyrights, and designs are filled at a U.S Patent and Trademark office. The second is Non-registrable I.P.

Trade secrets and terminology that describe your idea or the product itself fall under non-registrable I.P. Although trade secrets aren’t registrable, they can still be protected but only by your measures to keep them confidential.

The real question is, when do you start considering getting your ideas protected?

Start protecting your property early

A lot of it depends on whether or not you’ve already built a huge brand around your company. Taking the time to consult a trademark attorney early on could prevent a lot of headache, heartache, capital, and time wasted. In the article “10 Ways to Protect Your Intellectual Property,” by Kelly Fitzsimmons, an entrepreneur who built several companies and is the co-founder of HarQen, it was stated that,

“File as fast as you can. A patent application holds your place in line. You will have 12 months from that initial submission to expand upon your filing. And remember, US patents can take more than five years to issue.”

For example, let’s say you wanted to trademark a particular name but you waited until after your brand became a successful. What would happen if you discovered that the name you built a successful brand around was already trademarked by another company?

If your company has deep pockets, you may be able to buy ownership and and right to use the I.P., but what if you didn’t? Some companies who aren’t willing to work cooperatively and have the resources to pursue a lawsuit could easily shut down your business.

Why you should

The number one reason anyone should consider protecting their I.P. is to prevent future complications. It has become easier than ever to commit intellectual property theft. But other than saving time and money, registering or protecting your property through written contracts will allow you to keep your ideas and ensure the growth of your business.

How does it ensure growth?

Competition! It’s everywhere. Your competition could use your success and your unique idea to take market share. The British Library, a massive collection–and growing–of articles, manuscripts, blogs, and other electronic resources, published an article titled “Why you need to protect your Intellectual Property?” This particular author states,

“Losing market share early on in a business’s development can be devastating and time consuming if trying to chase up the guilty party without any legal protection. It’s important to remember that no one else will check to see if your intellectual property has been infringed; it’s your responsibility to ensure that no one else is using your assets.”

Conclusion

While this article was meant to serve as a quick read to inform you about I.P., what we didn’t discuss was how you file for patents, copyrights and trademarks. Nor did we go in-depth about trade secrets and how you could protect yourself and your company through proper employment agreements.

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