Let’s say two businesses launch at exactly noon this coming Monday. Though they might sell dramatically different products or services, the two startups are likely to have a few things in common, such as a limited budget and a need to protect intellectual property – products, innovations and brand – from competitors.
But how to juggle those competing needs at the same time? It’s essential to build an IP team that includes an intellectual property attorney and a product designer as early as possible. While some might view an IP unit as a needless expense in a startup’s first days, the reality is that the team saves the company money and time.
An IP lawyer helps determine whether a brand or product design can be legally protected (and then helps you obtain the protection). The attorney can also determine whether you’re in danger of violating someone else’s IP rights so that you and the designer can rethink the design or brand.
It’s can cost significantly less in money and time to make early design adjustments than to complete and then market a product with a design that has to be pulled, or worse, results in litigation.
In an article earlier this year, IP Watchdog said, “having both the design and legal experts on board early is essential.”
Using the team
Of course, once you’ve assembled your team, you should put them to use. Some questions for the IP team to explore and answer:
- How will the product be sold and who will buy it?
- What’s the market for it?
- Which problem does the product solve?
- Has the inventor or innovator worked with others or told others about it?
After the IP unit has answered those questions and others that you and they will develop, designs and brands can be completed and the IP attorney can determine which IP protection is required and begin the process of obtaining, as needed;
- Utility patents
- Design patents
In many cases, the lawyer will also put into place processes for the protection of trade secrets. You’ll then have an IP portfolio and strategy in place – both of which will likely evolve as the company matures.