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5 Intellectual Property Protection Tips for Your Start-Up

Posted: 14th July 2017

Intellectual property (IP) can cover a variety of elements, from patents and registered designs to business trade secrets.

It is crucial to the success of your company that you protect your IP, as this can be as important as the products or services you sell – sometimes more so. If your business is based on your IP (for example, a patent), it becomes even more vital to protect it adequately.

The 5 tips below will help you protect your business and enable it to commercially exploit its IP. By following them, business owners will avoid a number of costly problems and pitfalls common to start-ups across all sectors.

1. Get a good understanding of IP

IP is an intangible asset that can make or break your business. It encompasses creations of the mind, including patents, designs, copyright works, and trade marks. IP can be protected through a variety of legal measures that offer recognition and help protect business revenue. If managed correctly with conscious planning, this can safeguard a business’ assets and ensure healthy relationships with clients, partners and competitors alike.

2. How does IP relate to my business?

Whether you are an inventor, creative designer, writer or software developer, your work will often constitute IP. If you seek the appropriate help and protect your ideas, this can work to protect the longevity of your business, prevent competitors benefiting from your IP and give you options to licence or sell your IP rights in the future.

3. How can IP affect my business?

If unprotected, your lead competitor can take advantage of your IP, and potentially take your product to market before you. Speed is everything, meaning you could lose your competitive edge and potential customers, damaging both your reputation and cash flow. Once you have protected your IP, your competitive edge and market share is safeguarded. This gives you a right of challenge, but also the opportunity to sell the IP if your business wishes to step out of the market or diversify.

4. Do I need a trade mark?

If you have niche product, an online business, or have plans to expand your business abroad, securing trade mark protection will protect and add value to your business. An early decision involves where you will trade and under what brand. If you intend to use the same name worldwide, you will need to check its availability internationally and then protect your name, country by country, focusing on your most important markets first.

5. Working with contractors and suppliers

If you collaborate with contractors, freelancers or non-employees on any form of IP creation or development for your business, you should put in place a written agreement which not only describes and records the IP but also states that all IP created belongs to your business. Otherwise, the IP remains with your contractor.

If you need to disclose any confidential information or trade secrets to third party suppliers, either prior to negotiations or upon commissioning work, always have in place a confidentiality agreement beforehand.

Business Comment

Business Comment is the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce’s bi-monthly magazine. It provides insight on Edinburgh’s vibrant business community, with features on the city’s key sectors, interviews with leading figures and news on new business developments in the capital.
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