When you’re in the process of starting a business, there are so many different aspects to think about. You want to be true to your ethos and brand, but some changes might need to be made along the way. You need to think of client and customer needs, and well as yours and that of your group of employees. Not to mention the legal side of your business and how you keep things safe, confidential and protected. But as a startup business, you are unlikely to have a team of IT specialists there to help you (unless your business is in IT, of course).
But one important aspect that can sometimes get overlooked is securing your business’s intellectual property. Securing and protecting your business’s assets is so important to get it done right from the start. It is good business sense and business practice. So here are some tips to keeping your intellectual property (IP) safe and secure, as well as being cautious when you use other people’s work.
Tip 1: Educate Yourself
First thing is first, you need to know about the varying forms of IP right from the start. You need to do this alongside your contractors, employees, customers, and partners. They all need to seen as part of your IP strategy. This is simply because there are other forms of IP strategy that aren’t as obvious or apparent but are still just as vital as things like getting a trademark or a patent. Things like contracts between employees or other forms of documentation might be considered of any importance. But if things go well or the idea that was being passed back and forth was successful, then it can be a real pain later on. Make sure that you are using proper documentation, with things like agreements and contracts. It can make a big difference when it comes to your business and how successful you want it to be going forward.
Tip 2: Watch Out For Enabling Public Disclosure
Enabling Public Disclosure, or EPD is a term that refers to sharing as much information as possible publicly that could allow someone, especially someone in the know, to replicate your product themselves. A common EPD is going to things like exhibitions and trade shows where your product is on display, hoping to get backing or investors most likely. But the things is, once this has happened, you can’t apply for a patent for your product for one year after its public outing. So an important part of your IP strategy is to know the right time for an EPD or not. You don’t want to trigger one by accident! Make sure you have all of the confidentiality or patents or trademarks in place first.
Tip 3: Make Sure Your Website is Copyrighted
All businesses are going to have a blog and website these days. They are an important part of any marketing strategy. However, when things are online and left on the world wide web, it can make them susceptible to being copied or taken from your website. So you need to have a copyright policy in place and have it stated on your website if you don’t already. Luckily, there is a legal act called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), that stops people from just taking what they want from your website. So there is peace of mind that comes from this DMCA protection. However, it still means that people can take what you have online and try to pass it off as their own. But as long as you have copyright in place, then it makes it much easier to get something in place that means that they have to take down what they have copied. This can be content, pictures, and any other information relating to your content and business. So it is so important to make sure that you cover yourself.
Tip 4: Know the Importance of Dates
Keeping good records that are well documented, alongside the dates that things were done, is really key to helping you go forward in your business. If the tables turn and anyone tries to accuse you of infringing on their IP, then you will be able to squash that all quite quickly, as long as you have the supporting documentation. Any meeting minutes should be dated and noted what was said at it. Any patent or trademark applications should be dated, as well as other jobs, ideas, or contracts.
Tip 5: Know Your Team
In keeping your business’s IP sound, you need to know the people that you are working with. They are just as important in this whole process. So getting to know them and having internal and open communication with them is a great base for establishing trust. In the early stages of any business, you don’t want to have any employee disputes to have to deal with; they would be something that your business simply can not afford to have happen. Get to know your team and learn to trust them. This kind of thing can then be avoided.
Tip 6: Consider Trade Secrets
Did you know that KFC and Coca-Cola do not have patents for their recipes? I guess it is why Pepsi got so close with a similar product. However, they never quite made it the same. And the reason behind that was because these businesses have trade secrets, rather than patents. As long as a trade secret is well protected, then it will go on and on and can be a more cost-effective way of securing a stand-alone product, rather than getting and paying out for a patent. The only trouble is keeping things secret, so you need to know who you should be trusting and who you shouldn’t. If not, the consequences can be dire…
However you go about doing it, you need to understand IP and get an IP strategy for your business. It will help all of your hard work to pay off in the future if you do so; protect your ideas, and you’ll protect your startup.