In today's modern world, a company's most valuable assets aren't necessarily the physical products that they produce. Instead, it is the intellectual property of these companies that give them their value. Nowhere is this truer than in the life sciences industry, though the same concepts certainly apply to just about every other field. Proactively protecting your company's intellectual property is critical for long term success, especially as a startup a few years into operation. The following are some initial things you can do to ensure your business's IP is safe.
File for Patents & Trademarks as Soon as Possible
Any time your company comes up with a novel idea, logo, phrase, etc., a patent or trademark should be filed right away. Even though it can take some time to get your IP processed and approved by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the courts will look at the date on which you filed if there is ever a dispute. If another company uses your intellectual property and patents or trademarks it before you do, you'll have a much more difficult time claiming a legally enforceable stake in it.
In the life sciences especially, your competition isn't just going to be another U.S.-based company. We live and work in a global economy, and that means you need to take a global approach to protecting your intellectual property as well. Using international patents and trademarks is an important step in ensuring you are protected.
Use Non-Disclosure Agreements
Non-disclosure agreements are a critical tool in the fight to protect your company's intellectual property. Any employee, contractor, potential investor, or other person who will have access to any type of trade secrets should be required to sign a non-disclosure agreement before they see any proprietary information of the company's. A properly written agreement of this type can provide your company with a significant amount of protection at a very low cost.
Protect Your Data Network
It seems like hardly a week goes by without the news covering some type of data security breach of a major company. While the news mostly covers these issues from an identity theft perspective, these breaches also result in the loss of intellectual property for a company, especially startups.
Your computer systems likely contain a wealth of data about your business and trade secrets. If they were ever compromised, it could have a long-lasting negative impact on the projected success of your business. Hackers can hold your data for ransom until you pay up, and even then, you can't be sure that they won't try to use that information against your customers. Investing in strong data security protections, and requiring your employees to follow proven security practices, will go a long way toward minimizing the risk of intellectual property theft.
Use Legal Protections Aggressively
If someone steals your company's intellectual property, your only avenue is through judicial intervention and an injunction against the perpetrator. Competitors are less likely to attempt to copy or steal your ideas if they know that you have a legally enforceable stake in the idea, and that you have reliable IP counsel ready to fight aggressively for you.
Contact us to discuss a specific issue you are having, or to talk about options for our services as general counsel for your company. Our firm has years of experience protecting intellectual property, especially in the life sciences field, and would be honored to help defend your rights.