5 Big IP Mistakes Start-Ups Make

The light bulb is shining and your brilliant idea is slowly, but finally, becoming a reality. During this phase of the company so much is happening so quickly. Odds are you haven’t taken the time to properly educate yourself on the ins and outs of intellectual property laws.


This is both common and dangerous. Not taking the time to cross your T’s and dot your I’s can create a precarious future for your company. Sadly, we see some of the same mistakes happen over and over again. Here are the top five biggest mistakes a start-up can make.

  1. The Day Job. Unless you have some fantastic investors, you’ll probably have a day job during the fledgling stages. While this is good for your wallet, it can create big problems. If you use company resources to develop the idea, the company could be entitled to some shares of the intellectual property.
  2. Pass the Baton. Once the idea is developed the IP rights need to be transferred from the creator(s) to the company. This is especially important if a team of people worked on the idea. When the company owns the IP, it levels the playing field in the company, which allows everyone to work cohesively without fear of the IP holder walking out the door and destroying the company.
  3. Assuming too Much. On the other hand, if you hire employees to work on the idea, you won’t necessarily own their work by default. Just because employees have an idea on company time, doesn’t mean the company automatically owns the idea. When you rely on your employees to develop the idea, you need to make sure their contracts clearly state who owns the IP they produce.
  4. Spilling the Beans. Shark Tank made the idea of public pitch competitions wildly popular. These competitions can be great for funding and publicity, but they can spell disaster for your IP. Once you make a public announcement about your company, the clock is ticking. You now have 12 months to get your patent filed. Social media, crowd funding, and pitch competitions can all count as public announcements, which starts the clock whether you know it or not.
  5. Do Your Research. Brainstorming a witty slogan, name and logo is always a good thing. However, poking around the Internet to make sure the slogan isn’t taken already is asking for a future lawsuit. Once you’ve decided on a company name, logo, slogan, or anything else that can be trademarked, you need to check with a trademark lawyer. This is the only way to be sure you’re in the clear.

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