Intellectual property (IP) protection is essential for fostering innovation. If your startup is developing something truly new and inventive, these five tips will help you to get started securing your IP.
1. Own your Startup’s IP.
Science is a collaborative enterprise. You’ll be working closely with contractors, employees, and other associates, any of whom may wish to claim an ownership interest in the intellectual property (IP) that they’ve helped develop. Ensure that your startup retains control of its innovations through the appropriate use of clear and precise agreements.
2. Protect your IP.
IP protection is inherently fragile. For example, you cannot secure valid patent protection if you publicly disclose an idea before you’ve filed a patent application (with a limited grace period in some countries). In one recent Canadian case, discussions on an investor conference call, which had been made open to the public, were found to amount to a patent-invalidating public disclosure. Know ahead of time what steps you’ll need to take to protect your IP so that you can avoid inadvertently losing your IP rights.
3. Secure your IP at the right time.
Most countries have a first-to-file patent regime. Earlier patent applicants gain priority over later applicants claiming the same subject matter. However, to obtain valid patent protection, you’ll have to balance the advantages of being first with the need to gather enough data to enable a skilled person to practice the full scope of your invention. A clear strategy will help you to evaluate what IP should be protected and when applications should be filed.
4. Avoid infringing others’ IP.
Before you launch, or even invest in developing a new product or service, you’ll need to ensure that you won’t be infringing on another company’s patents. While it is impossible to fully eliminate risk, careful patent searching can help you to identify pitfalls and can help you to discover workarounds.
5. Understand what can be patented.
To be patentable, an invention must be truly new and inventive. It must also be patent eligible subject matter. What constitutes patent eligible subject matter varies by country and is currently in a state of flux in many jurisdictions. Diagnostic methods and computer-implemented inventions are two areas where the law may be problematic for your startup. Be sure to consider these issues with care while developing your IP strategy.
At Oyen Wiggs, we help our clients navigate their IP-related concerns through every stage of the process. Whether it is preparing a non-disclosure agreement, ensuring that employment and independent contractor agreements adequately protect a company’s IP rights, filing a provisional patent application before a journal article is published, licensing IP to others, or conducting due diligence on the transfer of IP, we have the expertise to help advance our clients’ IP interests. Our clients are inventors and entrepreneurs; we’re here to help protect their innovations.