If you're an entrepreneur launching a new technology startup, then you know how important intellectual property is to your business. In fact, for most technology startups, IP is their most valuable asset and often the reason they're launching the business in the first place.
Yet every year new businesses fail to protect their IP properly through appropriate written agreements. Since making mistakes when it comes to protecting your trade secrets and IP can cost your business everything, we recommend consulting with an experienced patent attorney from the beginning.
Common Mistakes That Cause Businesses to Lose Their IP
Here are a few of the most common mistakes that cause businesses to lose their IP:
- No written agreement. It's common for an entrepreneur to seek intellectual property rights for something that was developed by another person, like a scientist or professor. When this is the case, it's crucial that the agreement is put into writing. A verbal commitment will not hold up if the owner of the IP decides to grant IP rights to someone else or to share the information publicly.
- Public domain. Another big problem with oral agreements is that if the IP is disclosed in public, such as during a lecture, conference or in a scientific paper, the IP becomes part of the public domain. That means afterward obtaining a patent will be impossible.
- Joint ownership. When it comes to IP, joint ownership is not recommended. The reason is that when two or more parties own the rights to an IP or patent, it requires a joint decision and sometimes a written contract for any or all disposal of the IP rights.
- Non-Disclosure Agreements. A strong NDA can protect a party from losing control of their IP by preventing parties from disclosing certain information without permission. Ignoring or writing a weak NDA is a good way to lose your IP.
As a new business owner, we recommend you begin by identifying which parts of your business can be protected by copyright, trademark, patent or trade secret—the four types of intellectual property. Because each type of IP requires a different and sometimes complicated process to protect it, it's important to have an experienced business lawyer on your side.