It’s a critical question: Does your startup have an IP strategy?
Most startups don’t.
As an IP attorney who advises startups and emerging growth companies, I usually see a hodgepodge, willy-nilly approach to IP protection. It’s usually an after thought.
Many entrepreneurs don’t know what types of IP protection are available, how to prioritize protection based on their business plan, or how to get and keep protection. I think a big problem is that many entrepreneurs don’t understand the value of IP or why an initial IP strategy can be critical to avoid losing potential key strengths like patent or trade secret protection.
I rarely ever see a good IP strategy.
Professor Richard Rumelt in his new book Good Strategy/Bad Strategy explains that “[a] good strategy has coherence, coordinating actions, policies, and resources so as to accomplish an important end.” A good strategy has focus, priorities, and actionable objectives.
According to Rumelt, a good strategy first identifies the key challenges.
Three of the biggest challenges startups face is differentiation in the marketplace, competition, and legal liability.
A good IP strategy can help you differentiate your company, give you a competitive advantage, avoid legal liability.
Importantly, an IP strategy can you give you a big advantage over companies who don’t have one.
Differentiation. You may have a great idea for your business services or products but it can be hard to stand out in a crowd. For example, iPhone apps are proliferating like rabbits. Without a trademark strategy, you may be infringing someone else’s mark or you may choose a very weak mark that can’t be legally protected. Without a federal trademark registration, it can be difficult if not impossible to stop another company from using your app’s brand name on a competing product.
Competition. And really, how can you create barriers to competitors who will copy your great service or product? An IP strategy can help you identify your core intellectual property to protect, the types of legal protection to prioritize, and the actions you need to take to get and keep protection.
Liability. Do you really understand how to avoid legal liability for infringement and misappropriation or comply with legal statutes that can shield you from lawsuits? An IP strategy can help you develop policies and take actions to avoid legal liability that could put you out of business.
Even tiny companies can get tremendous, powerful advantages through the strategic use of IP law.
Subsequent posts will discuss how to identify objectives and create a good IP strategy.
Women entrepreneurs check out our house:work class that is all about developing a good IP strategy. There is still time to sign up and get help in creating your House of IP, the cohesive plan that will give your company a competitive edge.
Jill Hubbard Bowman is an intellectual property attorney who helps entrepreneurs create and implement strategic IP plans.
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