For a startup, securing intellectual property should be a major priority. It’s a process that will set the foundations of your company in stone, protecting you from IP theft and any copycats looking to mimic your success.

In addition to this, if your startup starts to grow super fast, a solid collection of IP will help you compete with some of the bigger companies out there. Here’s how to get started!

1. Craft employee contracts carefully

Make sure the important bits are in writing. When devising a contract, be sure to state that any assets or information that may be passed to the employee is yours, and your IP.

2. Copyright material

We’ve all seen that little ‘C’ logo that sometimes appears next to titles of things. That means it’s copyrighted, and is the property of that particular company. You should take a similar approach in everything that you develop, to shield it from theft.

3. Consult an attorney

Or, more specifically, an experienced trademark attorney. This is to ensure that your IP is properly protected, and you have filed a suitable trademark. Make sure you cover your bases upfront to avoid any disasters further down the line.

4. Protect IP at the design stage

You could wait until you have a finished product, or you could register ideas along the way. You may have concepts that never make it to full production, but they still need protecting in case another company executes the idea. Any time that you come up with a fresh idea, look to register it. Protecting your data early on removes stress in future.

5. Look into international patents and trademarks

A patent filed with your home country won’t defend you against other countries. This is vital to know if your main rival is based outside your home country. Snap up those overseas patents before they have the chance to beat you to it!

6. Keep evidence

Evidence includes blueprints, drawings and mockups. Anything that proves you created the property you wish to protect. Keep hold of all this evidence in a safe location – you’ll need it to prove your IP belongs to you.

7. Search for pre-existing patents

There are tons of trademark and patent search tools available to you, so use them. Before you start trying to register patents and such, you have to make sure your idea is original. If it’s too similar to something else that’s already registered, your claim will be rejected. This wastes money, and time.

8. Take action against thieves

Sometimes you have to make a statement, and this is a fine way to do so. Prosecuting IP thieves isn’t easy, but it sends a message to any other potential burglars.

9. Re-register new products

If you sell a product, then make a newer version of that product, it still needs protecting. The original product’s patent won’t cover it, in most cases.

10. Capture growing trends

If you notice a market trend that’s rapidly growing, but you don’t necessarily want to invest in it, trademark it anyway. Look to integrate the idea into your business, and this way, you’ll stop your rivals from getting ahead.

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