What Is Intellectual Property?

Intellectual Property protections

The rapid growth in the number of recent startups is intimidating.  As more and more novel products and services make their way to market, startups should be concerned with protecting their intellectual property.  But, what exactly is intellectual property?

Intellectual property, IP, is defined by the World Intellectual Property Organization as “creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce.”  This wide encompassing definition can include a startup’s novel product or service as well as its brand name, logo, and additional images associated with the business.  Startups, much like established businesses, depend upon the value of their product or service to the customer. Additionally, they depend upon the brand equity that becomes tied to their name, logo, and associated symbols/images.

Intellectual property can be extremely valuable to a startup.  In fact, a startup’s intellectual property may very well be the company’s most valuable and/or only asset.  For example, Google’s search-engine algorithm is considered to be one of the most valuable forms of intellectual property.  For a long time—and still to this very day—Google’s success depended upon its ability to control and protect its legal rights and interests in the algorithm.

Startups Protecting Their Intellectual Property

Protecting a startup’s legal rights and interests in its intellectual property can be of paramount importance.  Startups have an exclusive and legal right to use and profit from its intellectual property. Still, a startup’s failure to protect its intellectual property can have dire consequences. Fortunately, startups have several options to protect their intellectual property and some of the more common ways to protect its intellectual property include:

  • Patents
  • Copyrights
  • Trademarks

The above-listed protections are designed to guard against infringement of intellectual property by another company. Each protection has its own set of specific requirements that must be met in order for the protection to be enforced. If another company violates your startup’s intellectual property rights, your startup may be entitled to monetary damages. Startups should discuss intellectual property protections with an experienced Silicon Valley business attorney in order to best protect their proprietary interests.

Startups Should Safeguard Intellectual Property When Licensing

Startups may sometimes find that they must share their intellectual property with third-parties. This can be for purposes of growth, development, and distribution. Startups do not vacate intellectual property rights by sharing their intellectual property. Instead, startups can license their intellectual property to a third-party for limited use.

Startups that license their intellectual property to third-parties should only do so after entering into written licensing agreements. The terms of said contract are to be agreed upon by both the startup and a third-party licensee. The licensing agreement should be drafted to best protect the startup’s intellectual property while explicitly allocating only a limited license of the intellectual property to the third party.  The startup should always be sure to include a provision by which it retains ownership.

Because of the complexity of these licensing agreements, it is highly suggested to consult with a knowledgeable startup business attorney with experience in technology licensing.  The Silicon Valley attorneys at Startup Company Counsel can work with the startup to understand the startup’s desired goals and objectives regarding the license. Our business attorneys will help draft an agreement that will best protect the startup’s intellectual property rights.

Startup Company Counsel can Assist Your Startup in Protecting its Intellectual Property

Intellectual Property is an important asset which all startups should strive to protect. A startup’s failure to protect its intellectual property may have serious negative consequences for the business. The skilled business attorneys at Startup Company Counsel will work with your startup to best protect its intellectual property and those legal rights associated with it.  Schedule a consultation with one of our qualified business lawyers by calling our office at 408-441-7555.

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