According to Rob Walling, “Bootstrapping allows you to retain control of your company, which can translate to retaining your freedom”.
In most cases, a startup’s worth is almost entirely tied to its intellectual property. Innovation and creativity are the lifeblood of startups and greatly contribute to the value of an emerging venture. However, most newly established businesses, often bankrolled by their founders, face tight budgets and commercial viability is uncertain. Opting for lean operations and restrained spending is often a reality and not merely a choice; accordingly, there are a number of steps a bootstrapping startup can take to protect its intellectual property.
The patent system offers a time-limited, exclusive right to make, use and sell new, inventive and useful products or processes. As an incentive to promote innovation, the exclusivity provided by a patent allows inventors to benefit commercially from their hard work and ingenuity. Accordingly, obtaining patent protection is important from a commercialization perspective.
Hiring a patent agent to prepare and file a patent application may be a large expenditure in the early stages of building a business. Therefore, it is worthwhile to spend some time prior to filing an application to ensure that your proposed invention is new and inventive. To do this, you can conduct your own searches to check whether the same or any similar inventions
Upon completing some searches, you will have a better
A startup should also consider, in as far as is practical, keeping its invention secret and, only when necessary, disclosing the invention confidentially under a non-disclosure agreement. Creating an invention is an exciting endeavour, and often individuals are eager to share their new technology, but public disclosures of an invention can compromise one’s ability to secure patent protection. As described above, patentability depends on an invention being new in addition to other requirements. Meaning, prior public disclosures, even by the inventor, may prevent a startup from being granted a patent for their invention.
The reputation associated with a business and its products has tremendous value, as is evident in the way a certain word, slogan or logo, for example, evokes customer loyalty to purchase products and/or services from a particular business. As a result, taking appropriate steps to create an impactful brand is important.
For a startup, understanding what is currently being used as a trademark in association with similar types of products and/or services is useful, because a word, slogan or logo that is distinctive and not confusing with existing brands is essential for carving out your own market share.
Using Internet search engines and online trademark databases, such as those provided by the United States Patent and Trademark Office and the Canadian Intellectual Property Office, provide insight into what trademark rights have been applied for and registered in association with certain products and services.
Conducting searches prior to investing in marketing materials provides some assurance that you can begin generating interest and goodwill for your business, without a significant risk of conflict with any previous prior use of the same or similar trademarks being used by competitors.
Startups with Some Funding
For the company that has secured a business loan or an initial round of funding, it is a good time to start investing in its intellectual property.
Where a startup’s primary focus is on the commercialization of a new and inventive product or process, filing at least a provisional patent application prior to disclosing your product or process to the public is recommended. Patent protection for an invention is granted on a “first-to-file” basis, meaning, the earlier an inventor or patent applicant files a patent application, the better.
Having a provisional patent application drafted and filed (instead of a regular or non-provisional patent application) will lower the initial cost while giving the startup a filing date for the technology in the patent system which can be later relied on in a later, non-provisional patent application using a priority claim.
Further, from the time of filing a provisional patent application, a business may begin marketing its invention as “patent pending”; thus,
The patent agent will also keep you informed of the applicable deadlines for moving forward with the further non-provisional or regular patent application, which can be helpful for busy entrepreneurs giving their full attention to bringing their product to market.