Starting a business? Intellectual Property Comes First

When entrepreneurs recognize their IP rights, protect them, exploit them, and enforce them properly, they will gain a competitive advantage.

An essential step in Berytech’s different programs is the Intellectual Property Rights training. The most recent training was given by Amal Abdallah – Country Manager at Saba IP, to the startups working through the second phase of the Cleanergy program to validate their solution.

While many entrepreneurs undermine or dismiss the importance of protecting their Intellectual Property (IP), Amal urges them to focus on the IP rights that arise from their ideas. She shares with us the ten reasons why in this blog post.

Recognition + Protection + Exploitation + Enforcement = Competitive Advantage

IP: vital to business process

Assessing the quality of a startup idea is one of the most critical steps in the evolution of the venture before the founders take the idea a step too far. That being said, the success of any business idea centers on the ability to turn it into valuable Intellectual Property. Here is why Intellectual Property is vital to the business process.  

Know the IP types available: All startups have IP rights arising from their ideas. Knowing how to protect an idea, whether it’s an invention or a brand name, a copyright or a design is the start of the invention process through all its cycles.

Analyze your competitive advantage and barriers to entry: Would your invention, brand, or creative work give you a competitive advantage in the marketplace? You’ll need to do your research to see what’s out there and evaluate if you could capitalize on your work. Before investing in an idea, below are some questions to ask yourself : 

  • What’s the value of the product or service you are wanting to protect?
  • In the current market, would you be able to make a good return on your investment?  
  • What is the competitive market?
  • How do competitors market their product or service? 
  • Are there complimentary industries in the market you might be able to tap into? 

Consider IP protection as essential: Most startups mark IP as an unimportant matter; they often overlook Intellectual Property protection because it is not a physical asset. They are focused on ideas and bringing them to the market. The growth of business and survival is their immediate priorities. They do not know that delaying matters can result in loss of rights and liabilities.

Conduct sufficient research: Conducting a search to identify existing similar or identical trademarks or tradenames and conducting prior art searches for inventions is the first step to be taken before investing in a name or invention. Conducting such searches and making sure that the IP is unique prevents legal clashes over brand names and inventions from a third party.

Pay attention to the business name: When selecting a trademark or a tradename, entrepreneurs should consider the legal consequences and not only the marketing perspective. A strong, non-descriptive, and unique name that can be registered as a trademark will increase the IP value and will save the entrepreneurs the extra cost arising from a rejection of the trademark or litigation by a third party.

Do not disclose information: Disclosing the information related to their invention or product is a serious mistake that might prevent startups from registering it at a later stage.

Determine ownership and put agreements in place: Often more than one founder is collaborating to launch a startup; in addition to consultants retained to help with business processes, design logos, design websites, write code, etc. Unless the underlying IP in what all these individuals create is properly assigned, in writing, and in the correct form (agreement), the startup company itself will not own it and the rights will remain with the individuals. Ownership of the idea is a legal question, and a very important one to figure out early on to avoid disputes over ownership that could prevent full exploitation of the idea down the road.

Define resources: The challenge for startups is that resources, financial and human, are generally limited. Hard decisions need to be made about how to allocate them and which rights to prioritize. This is where a clear IP strategy comes into play. It enables a business to plan step by step and budget sequentially.

Have the idea legally protectable: Once ownership and merit have been satisfied, the last hurdle in turning the idea into valuable IP is the ability to legally protect it. Many entrepreneurs discovered that they did not create any significant IP (patents) along the way, preventing them from being able to license the technology, which left them without bringing the right return on investment to the shareholders.

Know how to legally enforce IP rights: Entrepreneurs should know that the burden of enforcing an IP right is mainly on them as IP owners. It is up to them to identify any infringement and to decide what measures should be taken to enforce their trademark rights. It is always useful to seek expert advice if you believe that someone is infringing on your rights.

To conclude, when entrepreneurs recognize their IP rights, protect them, exploit them (licensing, valuation, marketing), and enforce them properly, they will gain a competitive advantage in the market and over the competition.

About the author

Amal Abdallah is an IP expert helping IP holders to set and implement the best strategy to protect their IP rights. She has 23 years of experience in various industries with a focus on Intellectual Property: trademarks, designs, copyrights, patents, domain names, franchising, licensing, and negotiations and has a proven track record in providing strategic and transactional expertise as well as IP management of local and regional operations and business expansion management. She is an active member of various IP communities including APPIMAF, INTA, ECTA, and others.

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