Starting a business is (in most cases) a troublesome endeavor that comes it a lot of stress and worry. As a result, it’s easy to avoid areas that don’t seem of importance, at least in the beginning.
Intellectual property (IP) is exactly one of those grey areas that most new entrepreneurs ignore as they plan for development and expansion. So, to make sure you’re not caught off guard, here are some common pitfalls to keep an eye out for.
Failing to Identify your IP
If you’re new to business or just starting as an entrepreneur, you may think you don’t have to worry about protecting intellectual property, because there’s none available. But this is where you would be terribly wrong.
The moment you register a business name and think about a brand, you start creating intellectual property elements. Let’s say you want to run a crowdfunding campaign to get your dream started from the ground. As you create the online page of the campaign (which goes on the crowdfunding platform), you will have to disclose sensitive information such as product name, schematics, development plans, and so on.
All these are in fact, IP assets and you should make sure they are protected by law before making them public.
The same is valid if you work with collaborators (employees, partners, or contractors). It is important to establish documentation that puts you in the position of owning the intellectual property being created. This can be anything from online content creation, drawings of a building, logos, the schematics of a new product, and more.
Keep in mind that, if you don’t use a work for hire agreement, the contractor is the one owning the intellectual property and not your business.
This means that, if you contract a designer to create a logo for your business, your company won’t be the owner of said logo even if it’s clear that an exchange of money took place. You need a specific type of documentation that clearly stipulates who will hold the ownership.
Not Knowing About the Different Types of IP
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think about intellectual property? Many entrepreneurs seem to think that it’s all about filing for patents and copyright infringement.
Still, if you study the law, you will find out that trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets are also considered forms of IP protection.
For instance, you should apply for a trademark registration when you want to protect a logo or a brand, for copyright protection when you want to protect music or written works, and for trade secrets when you want to keep safe the secrets that make your business unique (recipes, special processes, or formulas).
Not Doing Thorough Research
While it’s true that intellectual property laws and regulations can be confusing and difficult to browse, if you fail to do the research, you risk making costly mistakes.
For instance, one of the most common mistakes is choosing a business name or slogan that is confusingly similar to one that’s already in use, in the same jurisdiction. This can lead to copyright infringement later down the road.
Also, just because you use a business name and register an online domain to it, it does not confer trademark protection. On the other hand, if you register a name as a trademark, it doesn’t mean you have exclusive rights over it on all domains.
Intellectual property is not just a buzzword; it’s an extra layer of protection that will help keep the business going forward!