There are many obstacles to building a business, and ensuring that you do not fall foul of common intellectual property problems is one of the largest yet also the least understood.
To rectify this, here are a few tips on avoiding Intellectual Property issues as the owner of a start-up which could make a huge difference to the long term success of your organization.
Get Legal Advice as soon as Possible:
Rather than just assuming that you will be able to steer your company through whatever rough waters it faces from an intellectual property perspective, it is better to arm yourself with the advice and guidance of a qualified expert ASAP.
Firms like Heer Law are ideal in this respect, as you can not only ask legal professionals for their input on any intellectual property conundrums you are facing, but also establish a relationship with the people who will be able to help out if you ever need them in the future.
Choose a Brand Name that is Easy to Trademark
While trademarks are protected by law automatically, you should not only be encouraged to register them with the authorities to help prevent infringement, but also think about what to name your business so that it can easily be defended.
There are a few main types of trademarkable names, and so before you go ahead and choose a brand at random, bringing yourself up to speed with these is wise.
For a straightforward registration experience, fanciful marks might be your best bet. Brand names like Xerox fall into this category, and so long as the word chosen does not have an existing definition, you could follow suit. It just needs to be an appealing brand that your target audience will also be able to remember.
You can also use an arbitrary mark; one which consists of a defined word or phrase that does not have an obvious link to what you are trying to sell. Apple, the maker of the iPhone, has a business that is entirely unconnected from fruits or indeed anything edible, hence its ability to secure a trademark without much fuss.
Companies also choose suggestive marks, which do give a hint of what the products and services are intended to embody, without being directly descriptive. Automaker Jaguar, with its brand evoking the power and speed of a jungle cat to attach these associations to its vehicles, could be seen in this light.
Consider Copyright Regulations
As with trademarks, copyright protection is also offered to any creators of artistic works from the moment that they are brought into being, with no additional steps necessary to secure this shielding from infringement.
At least this is the case on paper, but regulations can only go so far to stop your company from having its Intellectual Property assets copied or adapted without permission by third parties.
Registering for copyright is therefore just as sensible as securing your trademarks to protect your brand. And the sooner you do it, the less chance there will be that if infringement does occur, you will be unable to seek restitution.
Look at Your Own use of Third Party Intellectual Property
Focusing only on shoring up your defences against intellectual property infringements is not the greatest move, since it is entirely possible that your own operations and actions could infringe upon the IP of another individual or business.
You can mitigate this in a few ways; first, by searching with the USPTO to find existing trademarks so that you do not accidentally cross over with those owned by an established company, and second by either paying to license any copyrighted material you use commercially, or by harnessing only copyright-free content.
Begin the Patenting Process
Last of all, if your business has an invention that is novel enough to be patentable, looking into filing for a patent is another step to take at the earliest opportunity.
Be aware that not everything can be patented, and the process of getting a patent is both time consuming and expensive.
Ultimately your best move to avoid intellectual property right pitfalls is to learn from the mistakes of others and do what you can to run your business in line with the advice of legal experts.