Especially in the digital era, California is a hotspot for people with big ideas. Entrepreneurs and innovators flock to the state, hoping to follow in the steps of giants like Google, Yahoo and Facebook. But for a startup to stand a fighting chance of succeeding in this fast-paced, competitive marketplace, it is critical for business owners to protect their intellectual property.
When a new business is just starting out, intellectual property often makes up the vast majority of the company’s value. However, startup founders often fail to recognize the value of their own intellectual property — or its vulnerability.
While most entrepreneurs are at least somewhat familiar with basic IP concepts like patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets, they may not realize quite how they apply to their own business needs.
For example, a startup founder who joins a prestigious incubator without understanding the related IP issues may risk putting his or her hard work into public domain inadvertently. Conversely, a company may run into unexpected IP issues by using open-source code that is not authorized to be resold. This can put the business at risk by tainting any products that are developed from that code. Likewise, working with contractors and employees to get a startup off the ground can create potential stumbling blocks when it is unclear who owns the IP assets that result from the collaboration.
In the excitement and hard work that come with getting a startup off the ground, many entrepreneurs make the mistake of pushing IP issues off until later, when the process of sorting out those issues is likely to be far more costly and time consuming. To help avoid costly IP mistakes, it can be helpful for entrepreneurs to work with a lawyer to identify IP assets and take steps to protect them from square one.
Source: Forbes, “Protect Your Intellectual Property – Before It’s Too Late,” Mary Juetten, June 3, 2104