Intellectual Property for Startups

Intellectual Property

Intellectual Property for Startups encompasses patents, trademarks, copyrights and more. A large portion of your competitive advantage and your potential value to investors is the size and clarity of your intellectual property (IP) startup portfolio.  Be sure to address these eight IP portfolio items before you start looking for funding.

  1. Company name. The company name becomes your intellectual property at the moment you incorporate your startup as a LLC or a Corporation.  Sole proprietorships need to trademark the name to protect it. Select it well – marketers will tell you that you will be selling your name, more than your products. Actual incorporation fees in many states are below $100, if you do it yourself.
  2. Internet domain name. This name (www.domainname.com) is just as critical as the company name, and the two should match as nearly as possible.
  3. Social media accounts. Immediately go to relevant social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) and grab the same name, even if you never plan to use the accounts.  These days, every business needs a blog, so sign up your domain names accounts on TypePad, WordPress, and Blogger, or all of the above, before someone starts blogging in your name.
  4. Patents. Remember that ideas cannot be patented, only novel implementations. But the application or provisional application has to be registered before you disclose the details to investors or consumers, or the implementation will be deemed un-patentable. Patent attorney fees start at around $5K.
  5. Copyrights. Written materials, photographs, illustrations, computer software, music, film/video, and website content.
  6. Trademark. A trademark is a name, phrase or logo that tells the consumer the origin of the goods and distinguishes your goods from those of your competitor. Trademarks require a federal trademark registration from the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The cost for a single trademark is around $300.
  7. Trade secrets-Customer or consumer profiles, pricing data, business plans, financial data and forecasts, manufacturing techniques, design manuals, survey and research data, employee knowledge, and source code.
  8. Business Plan. Your business plan holds the keys to your kingdom, so you don’t want it in the hands of competitors. If you need early reviews or assistance by people you don’t know well, get them to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement first.  From , CEO of Startup Professionals

Why Should I Care?  In cost, all of these elements of intellectual property may be acquired for a few hundred dollars (or a few thousand with an attorney), if you act early and quickly. Later, good intellectual property can be worth millions when your company valuation is set for investment purposes, or when the company is acquired or sold. In between, you need it to survive.

Mistakes To Avoid

Good Advice to Consider

Trying to summarize the issues of intellectual property cannot begin to touch on the multitude of specifics.  Be sure to check out Intellectual Property Presentation  to find a through explanation on the finer details and browse the links below for a good baseline.

Online Resources for Intellectual Property for Startups