5 Serious Intellectual Property Mistakes Startups Must Avoid

This column is authored by blogger Ike Christopher

intellectual propertyMore often than not, entrepreneurs fail to comprehensively access the legalities related to their new business.

Did you know that failing to thoroughly research your business name before adopting it could end your new startup in ruins?

Maybe no one ever told you that an act of negligence from an employee on social media can land you in a messy and expensive suitcase.

That being said, here are the most common IP mistakes which you can’t avoid to make, else you risk losing your business.

#1. Choosing random brand names without research

Finding the brand name that would be best fit for a new business is overwhelmingly difficult, admittedly. It even gets harder when trying to figure out if someone else is using the business name or tagline you came up with after days to months of intensive brainstorming.

To that end, some entrepreneurs, in a bid to cut down cost and save time, peruse the web, or at best use free search tools to get on with the task of researching the trademark of their business. The result: breach of someone else’s trademark.

While it is easy for a business at infancy to get away with trademark breach, it an entirely different ball game when the business grows – messy legal battle and loss of customer trust are commonplaces.

Take away: Get an attorney with expertise in trademark protection.

#2. Dilly-Dallying with the registration of trademark

Every hour, hundreds of new businesses are born. If you do the math, it becomes glaring that the odds aren’t exactly in your favor.

So, what has this got to do with anything? Put simply, the longer you wait to register your business name and every other element that constitutes your IP, the higher your chances of losing out, eventually.

Take home: Register your business name and tagline as soon as you conceive and validate it.

#3. Not answering the ownership question

Say you hired a brand strategist to help with the task of drafting and validating a brand name message.  Somewhere down the line, the hired contractor became an employee of your company. Who, between you both, has the right of ownership to the intellectual property? You obviously, isn’t it?

Well, as simple as the answer may be, many entrepreneurs have seen their business go down because they failed to answer the ownership question.

Until there is a legal document that assigns the right of ownership of an IP to a business owner, anybody, including an employee or contractor can claim it.

Take away: A legal document should assign the right of ownership to an IP to you.

#4. Failing to protect sensitive information

Did you know that only two employees of Coca Cola know the actual ingredient used in the making of coke? Weird huh!

And it isn’t only Coca Cola that has taken extreme measures to protect their real estate – many large businesses have followed suit.

While taking extreme measures to guard sensitive information about a business at infancy is impractical, efforts should be made to guard them religiously.

Simple actions like legally enforcing employees not to share certain information online or with others, restricting access to sensitive file and using strong passwords on protected documents will do.

Take away: Guard sensitive info about your new startup jealously.

#5. Reading legal documents with careless abandon

Nothing tires the mind than reading large blocks of text without any sort of break like images.

If you thought reading, say, the privacy policy of a website is serious work, wait until you required to read a license agreement.

No matter how exhausting and cumbersome it may be, take the time to read all legal documents binding on your new business. Your goal for doing this is to spot out unfamiliar fine prints that may cause issues in the future.

Take away: Seek legal consultations when you come across unfamiliar fine prints.

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