Every Venture Needs an IP Strategy
On February 19, the Butler Venture Accelerator hosted a panel discussing IP strategies for start-ups regarding branding, patents, building assets, and more. The panelists featured
William Hilton, Gesmer Updegrove LLP
Kevin Mulcahy, Babson College Lecturer
Roger P. Zimmerman, Bowditch & Dewey LLP
Caroline Daniels, Babson College Faculty and Accelerator Program Advisor
For entrepreneurs who just started their businesses or already had businesses, branding can be a challenge. Most entrepreneurs do not want to brand their companies incorrectly when starting out. According to Hilton, the strongest brand has a unique name which does not give away its meaning. This creates an advantage because companies grow and learn and a unique brand name will help the companies to build its own reputation overtime. For entrepreneurs, trademarks can be the name, logo, color, context of presentation of anything related to their businesses. Entrepreneurs should register their trademarks as soon as possible because when their businesses start to make money, they are protected even if their competitors copy their trademarks by changing the color of their logo, etc.
Regarding the creation of a professional company, Mulcahy suggested that entrepreneurs make sure that they have ownership rights for themselves and for their employees. Entrepreneurs should explain the terms of contract and ask employees to sign them before letting them to begin their work. This sets the tone that the company and the employees of that company are professional.
According to Zimmerman, in the past years, people who file patents first have the rights to the inventions, even though they were not the original inventors. However, there was a new patent law passed on March 16th, 2013 stating that the patent law is first to file and first to invent which means that the first inventor of anything that needs to be patented plus the first to file will get to own the patent. Lawyers usually encourage entrepreneurs to file for patents as soon as possible because it usually takes more than 2 years for patent applications to be processed. In addition, the average rejection rate for patent application is over 88%. The entrepreneurs are encouraged to write the patent application with a team of reviewers while keeping their audience’s (the patent applications processors) perspectives in mind. Even though filing for patents can be very time consuming, entrepreneurs can purchase other companies’ patents as licenses or license their own patents to other people for a couple of thousand dollars to build their assets.
In summary, entrepreneurs should consider filing for trademark, copyright, and patents as soon as possible as a form of protection. Entrepreneurs should also be careful when it comes to hiring employees. Contracted employees need to understand and sign the company contract and make sure that they do not copy open-source information online then apply them to the company’s files because the company could potentially be sued for copyright infringement. Visit http://www.uspto.gov to learn more about trademarks, patents, and their legal policies in the United States.