Every startup has an intellectual property (IP) strategy. For many, it may be as simple as, “I’ll worry about IP after the next funding round.” Whether articulated or not, a startup’s IP strategy says a great deal about how well its leadership is balancing the company’s short-term survival with long-term growth and success.
U.S. Patent and Trademark Office 37 CFR Rule 1.56: How Should Patent Applicants Approach Compliance?
All companies should be aware of the Rule and determine at an early stage how inventors should be educated regarding compliance. Often, companies and their patent counsel train inventors to avoid attempting to perform prior art searches or compare their inventions to “what is out there.” This is prudent for a couple reasons.
Patents, trademarks, and copyrights are commonly known as “intellectual property” or IP. As occasional high-profile lawsuits between large corporations illustrate, IP can be extremely valuable, causing companies to budget significant amounts of money to acquire, defend, and assert IP rights. The concept of IP can be controversial, prompting various constituencies to condemn the entire idea (e.g., as dampening innovation or hampering individuals and smaller entities), or to object to the vast sums spent on high-profile lawsuits and their resulting awards/settlement.
IP is for tech companies. Every company possesses Intellectual Property. A misconception exists that IP is only for tech companies such as Apple or Intel and IP is only about patents. Not true. 100% of companies possess IP. IP is not just about patents but also includes protecting a company’s brand, is creative work and trade secrets.
When a company or individual sets out to protect their intellectual property, their first move is usually to consider copyrights, patents or trade secrets. While each of these forms of intellectual property protection is important, and to form a comprehensive strategy they must work in concert with each other.
Some Coloradans might be familiar with certain words, such as aspirin and elevator, which were once brand names but became common nouns. Thankfully, today’s companies can seek trademark protection through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to prevent other companies from using their product names, which can eventually cause these names to become common nouns. Despite these federal protections, however, some trademark disputes are unavoidable.