What is it? Intellectual Property (IP) is a term which includes patents, designs, trademarks and copyright. It is the main asset of many companies and certainly of most start-ups and relates to the rights surrounding technology or knowledge owned by them.
Why is it important? Virtually all the assets of a start-up or of a new project within a mature company emanate from the knowledge on which the start-up or project is based. Establishing ownership of these knowledge-based assets is crucial to the development of the company.
When should we start registering our IP rights?
For patents, the short answer is: “before your competitor “. For a technology or medical device company, this means that for each invention you should start the patenting process as soon as you are able explain to another person how your invention works. For a life sciences company, where tests are required to prove that the invention works, you should start consulting with a Patent Attorney as soon as you can explain the science, define the tests you plan on carrying out and the results you expect.
For design registration, you must register before advertising the product.
For trademark registration, there is no set time. However, experience teaches that if you have a trademark that you want to keep, apply to register it before you disclose it. (Note that this is a practical, not legal requirement) If your mark is attractive to you, it will be attractive to others too. And if you don’t register it, someone else will.
JMB’s extra Q&A:
Q: On occasion, I’ve been told by an entrepreneur that he doesn’t really believe in IP, but he’s ‘doing it’ because his investors want it. If I don’t believe in IP, then isn’t it a waste of money?
A: The objective need to obtain IP assets for your company is not a matter of belief. It’s very practical. It is important to investors, partners, potential customers and competitors. A technology company without IP rights may be technology rich, but will be fortunate indeed to become a commercial success.
Do you have questions about the above information? Are there subjects that you would like to hear about? Let me know!