How important are patents/copyrights for startup founders? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.
To a startup founder, patents and copyrights can be super important, marginally relevant, or somewhere in between the two. So how do you determine the level of importance? More and more startups are creating an IP strategy, which can serve as a helpful framework for treating your various IP as your startup grows.
Too often than not, startups spend exuberant amounts of money on stuff they don't necessarily need like a provisional patent application. That's why it's important for a startup founder to learn a little bit on their own to make an informed, business-savvy decision. Creating an IP strategy is particularly useful for bootstrapped startups that don't have the funds for an attorney to take care of it.
How do you develop an IP strategy? You first have to identify what IP your startup has in its arsenal. To do this, you'll have to learn the type of things protectable by patents, trademark, and copyright. (Take a look at this post for that). While you research the various forms of IP, ask yourself: is this something I can do myself? How much would this cost? Can I get screwed by not registering this IP?
It's also important to assess your given industry by seeing what your competitor has concerning IP. After all, you don't want to infringe on another company's IP. Try running a patent search by using the company name as "Inventor," and a trademark search here. If your competitor has no patents, then that may indicate there's no need to apply for one. After all that you should have an idea if your startup has any valuable IP. It's also important to spend some time researching the types of agreements that can also protect your IP, like confidentiality agreements and IP assignment agreements.
On one hand IP can propel a company into an instant success, but it can also dry up a company's well by spending when it doesn't have to or by allowing a competitor to swoop in and steal the IP. Make sure you tread lightly!
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