By Mary Juetten
It’s a widely-held belief that small businesses are the main driver of the US economy. Small businesses have a greater ability to create new jobs than middle and large-sized companies. So what is keeping them from protecting their intellectual property? While the federal government has implemented a number of measures to assist aspiring entrepreneurs to start their own business, it hasn’t done enough to educate them on the importance of intellectual property (IP) protection or the value of intangible assets. Below are a few IP-related challenges that US small businesses face today.
Lack of emphasis
It wasn’t until recently that the federal government recognized the need to develop informational tools about IP protection for American companies. This move originated in part from an article written by Scott Baldwin stating that only 15% of US small businesses conducting business overseas were aware that US patents don’t protect them abroad. It would thus seem fair to conclude that US startups are at a disadvantage when it comes to IP protection compared to larger, global companies. (more…)
There are so many elements and decisions that go into starting a business that it’s not uncommon for things to get overlooked. Unfortunately, one element that often gets overlooked is a company’s current and potential intangible assets, and that oversight can be costly. Failing to identify or even understand the value of these assets can put a business at risk of losing out on funding from investors or protecting that intellectual property. Consider getting help from an expert if you have been making any of these three common intellectual property mistakes.
- Not doing your homework before starting your business
One of the first mistakes any startup can make is to not do research on their idea to understand what similar companies or products exist, or on existing registered IP related to their own creation. Many don’t even establish any sort of IP strategy to address any issues that may arise, hoping that they never have to worry about it. Unfortunately, ignorance isn’t an excuse.
It is crucial to research existing IP to make sure your company will not infringe on someone else’s copyrights, trademarks, and patents. Thorough research will also allow you to understand what ideas are legally yours and therefore able to be protected. Clearly defining what your company owns and what belongs to another person or entity will help you accurately assess the value of your business venture. (more…)
By Mary Juetten
If you’ve just opened a new business, this question perhaps hasn’t crossed your mind yet: Is IP part of your business’s foundation? In order to answer, you might wish to understand your intellectual property (IP) and how it factors into making any money. But before you do that, statistics tell us you probably aren’t paying enough attention to how important your IP is. Some small businesses do not fully comprehend the importance of what IP does for them and that is the crucial mistake they are making.
These statistics come from Small Business Trends presenting information gathered over the last four years. They point out that out of all major IP categories, most of them haven’t been protected enough through companies with less than 500 employees. Please keep in mind these were companies that deal with research and development where IP would be of central importance.
In the report from the National Science Foundation, we see concern toward smaller companies in how much financial potential they’re losing out on not paying attention to their IP. Some of the categories not being explored range from patents to trade secrets, with the latter being one of the most important (and unprotected or abused) areas of IP. (more…)
By Mrigrank Mishra
As a small business owner with intellectual property (IP), you have to leverage your assets to work for you. We have talked a number of times about the importance of protecting your IP and the necessary steps to achieve that end. The next step involves making the IP generate capital in more ways than just product sales. You may at times need to enter into an agreement with a third party with respect to that intellectual property. There are a number of different types of agreements that affect IP.
Just like tangible property, intellectual property can be conveyed, or assigned, to a new owner. If you are selling your business, you will need to convey the associated intellectual property to the new owner. Assigning IP entails transferring all rights associated with it to the assignee. You cannot then use the IP and claim creating it originally as a defense against infringement. Furthermore you cannot resell the same IP to another person if specifically mentioned in the agreement. Another scenario involving possible assignment is in the case of infringement. In many such cases, as part of a settlement, the party infringing the IP will be made to assign any rights it accrued to the rightful owner.
All types of IP can be assigned to others to use. With respect to patents, for instance, the inventor often never manufacturers anything. Instead, they license the patent to third parties to manufacture the product. They then collect licensing fees and, most likely, goes on to patent their next invention, repeating the process as much as possible. These agreements control how the licensor can use the IP, stipulate the fees associated with the license (if any), and assure that all use by the licensor inures to the benefit of the licensee. (more…)
By Emily Ely
Developing a solid intellectual property (IP) strategy is essential for emerging companies preparing for market entrance. Various forms of IP can usually be found in company’s portfolio and identifying these assets based on business goals and assumed future opportunities are at the core of that strategy. The following are a few tips to keep in mind to improve your IP strategy for startups.
Questions to think about when establishing an initial IP strategy:
• Who owns the fundamental technology in your space – i.e. who are the key organizations filing and buying patents in your market segment and what are they working on?
• Where are the opportunities for strategic growth, investment, or licensing within your field?
• How rapidly is new innovation taking place in your space?
• Where are the new and emerging technologies being developed in your space?
• Which patents are the most valuable for your products?
• Do your customers value IP to demonstrate they are purchasing innovative products? (more…)
By Mrigank Mishra
If intellectual property (IP) was a rock band, then a patent would definitely be the lead singer. This is not to say they are better than other forms of IP, just the face of it, and an important one if applicable to your IP. An investor is more likely to be impressed with an IP portfolio with patents than without.
But it is a hard application to both file and be granted, requiring in-depth research and sometimes years before the US Patent and Trademark Organization (USPTO) actually reaches a decision. Considering the amount of work that goes into the process, it is not surprising the cost of filing a patent application is also comparatively higher than other forms of IP rights. Presently the cost is about $1,600. Compared to the $35 for a copyright, around $500–$1,000 for a trademark, and nothing at all for trade secrets (they are not registered), you can see the difference. (more…)
By Emily Ely
If you’re planning on patenting your idea, you should be careful in choosing which patent you apply for when protecting your inventions. There are many different kinds of patents, but most likely, you’ll be wanting to choose between a utility or design patent.
A design patent lasts for 14 years. This is subject to change, as are most laws. Design patents are mostly used for, well, designs! If you’re an architect and come up with a novel design for a new kind of Titanic that can’t be sunk, with unique features that no other ship currently possesses –then you should apply for a design patent. The design patent makes it illegal for anyone else but yourself to replicate your design, sell it, or use it for the whole fourteen years.
A utility patent lasts for 20 years. This is subject to change, just like the design patent. Utility patents are meant for inventions – so you’re trying to protect the actual mechanism of an invention. Utility patents protect the mechanism of the invention and its function, but it poorly protects its design. (more…)
Every small business should have a basic understanding of the laws that apply to protecting intellectual property. It is the only way a company will be able to protect their unique creations and ideas from competitors. There are four major ways a small business can obtain legal protection for intellectual property (IP).
This is business information that a company keeps secret. This information gives the small business an advantage over their competitors. It could be a device, method, formula and more. A trade secret example could be anything from the ingredients used in a food product, to the process used for creating an object. This cannot be protected by registering it. A small business must control access to this type of information. Companies must use Non-Disclosure Agreements, employment covenants and more to protect their trade secret.
A small business may have created literature to sell their product that should have copyright protection. Copyright protection could also include music, computer software and more. In theory, copyright protection occurs the minute the work in created. When a small business holds a copyright, they will be able to better prove their case if a copyright infringement lawsuit becomes necessary. Details of copyright registration can be found at the US Copyright office website. (more…)
Trademarks are an essential way to protect your intellectual property (IP) so you can market your goods and services under your brand. However, if you have ever gone through the trademark registration process, you know the challenges in trying to find out whether the idea is already protected.
Trademark applications are not cheap and the cost of re-filing again and again is a wasted expense. To ensure the application is filed right the first time round, it can take up numerous resources and time that you may not have. Even then, you might miss information about a trademark that could eventually put you in danger of infringement.
With a new tool being designed that can help you find information faster, this process may be easier than ever. This digital tool, called TrademarkNow, has been searching for venture capitalists to get it on the market. It recently received a $3.5 million investment from a company called Balderton Capital that will ensure it is used by millions of businesses. (more…)
Intellectual property (IP) is one of the most important components of any business, and yet it is often one of the most neglected. Amidst the furor of innovation and the pressure of day-to-day operations, IP can get lost in the shuffle. But neglecting your IP won’t resolve the issue; in fact, it puts your business at increasing risk every day. So why should entrepreneurs care about IP?
IP is your most valuable asset – Every company has IP whether they know it or not. After all, every business starts with an idea. And while your physical assets show up on your balance sheet, it’s your intangible assets that can set your company apart. Innovative products and processes, creative designs, distinctive signs and branding, and trade secrets are all part of your IP portfolio. As the economy shifts more towards information technology and services, those intangible assets have never been more valuable.
Failing to protect your IP can be expensive – Imagine: You’ve come up with a fantastic new idea–something that will revolutionize how we consume cat videos posted online. You don’t want to wait another day to get started changing the world, so you put off filing patents and trademarks to another day. Unfortunately for you, the patent system is now first to file (not first to invent), and someone else has swooped in and filed for a nearly identical invention in the interim. Even worse, you’ve put considerable time, effort, and money into a project that now has to be scrapped. Filing early will help you avoid these headaches and help you raise capital; investors want to know that you own your IP. (more…)