The early days of a start-up are particularly busy for any entrepreneur. There are tons of tasks that need to be completed – from building a core team to devising a marketing strategy to developing key partnerships. Through this time, it is easy to get lost in all the work and lose sight of what is important – protecting your idea.
It can be challenging to focus on so many things at the same time, and intellectual property laws are one such thing. This guide is for the overworked entrepreneur. While this will not serve as a replacement for an attorney, it will cover the basics of IP laws and how they affect your business.
There are three basic types of intellectual property protections;
A trademark is your brand’s identity. It helps to build brand awareness among your customers. A label is a symbol of trust and confidence in the brand. Words, logos, symbols, or slogans are all examples of trademarks. Trademarks can also protect product design and packaging.
Your brand should be protected with a trademark as soon as possible. Trademarks are accompanied by the TM, SM, or ® logo. They allow you to protect your customers from knock-offs in the market.
Copyrights protect books, art, music, photographs, and computer software. This is because the lines of code are essentially artistic expression. Expressions of ideas can be protected by copyrights; however, ideas cannot be copyrighted.
So, while your competition cannot copy your code word-for-word, they can create their software offering a similar service. Copyrights grant the author exclusive rights of reproduction, distribution, and sale. You can protect your interests by including the word “Copyright” or © on distributed material.
There are two significant reasons why you would need patent protection. First, to protect your inventions from the competition. Secondly, to avoid patent infringement lawsuits.
Patents can be utility patents. This form of patent protection is for technical inventions, or even processes in software, such as Facebook’s Newsfeed feature. Design patents offer protections for ornamental features of a product.
You can obtain a patent by applying with the US Trademark and Patent Office. Your application will include a description of the product, design of the product, and the key elements that make up your product, called patent claims.
The best way to approach these matters is by soliciting the help of a practiced attorney. While it is easy to forget about these legal protections, they became quite relevant in the future. Legal protection is a statement of the fact that you conduct your business by the book. Understanding the IP laws is critical for your survival in the tech industry. If you have a new start-up, you can join our essentials mastermind program to learn more about the basics or successfully running your business.