Launching a tech startup company is sure to be an exciting time, but it will also be fraught with challenges. One area that many startup founders overlook is intellectual property laws and regulations. But if you want to ensure your brand is protected and you do not end up paying large fines for infringing on someone else’s copyright or trademark, you really need to pay attention to intellectual property. Here are five IP mistakes you should avoid.
- Using Existing Brand Names
- Failing to Register Trademarks
- Not Copyrighting IP
- Using Another’s Copyrighted IP
- Thinking Your Business Is Too Small for IP Infringement to Matter
Whatever type of business you are starting, the brand name you choose can make a significant difference in how well your company performs. Finding a suitable name is challenging in itself, but finding a unique brand name is even more difficult these days. If you do not want to infringe on another company’s name and end up receiving a cease-and-desist letter that could result in you having to pay hefty fines and having your brand name stripped, it is crucial you spend time researching which brand names are legally available. Not doing so could be costly and mean you have to begin your brand name development from scratch.
Once you have come up with a brand name that is unique and is not confusingly similar to another company name, you should legally protect it with a trademark. In the US, you can register trademarks with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Before you do so, it is worth seeking advice from legal professionals about trademarks and intellectual property. For instance, Heer Law can help you to determine whether a trademark is available to use and aid you in obtaining trademark protection on home soil and abroad. Once you have registered trademarks, you ensure your brand is protected from copycats and you can take legal action if someone infringes on your intellectual property.
Copyright is similar to trademarks in that both protect intellectual property, but copyright is used for creative works like photographs, graphics, artwork, music, film, and software. By protecting such items by registering for copyright with the US Copyright Office, you gain exclusive rights for displaying, selling, distributing, and using the copyrighted works. Failing to copyright your works could end up in other companies using them without your permission.
Just as important as protecting your creative works with copyright is making sure you do not infringe on another company’s intellectual property. If you unwittingly or knowingly use someone else’s content, such as text, logos, or music, without permission, you could be taken to court and end up paying large fines.
You could think your tech startup is too small to need to worry about infringing on intellectual property. But you would be wrong. Whether you knowingly or unknowingly use copyrighted or trademarked content, you could be taken to court and have to pay fines. Both large multinationals and small businesses can use tools to find online infringement, so you should not only avoid using things like the McDonald’s logo on your website. You should also make sure you do not use a photograph that is copyrighted to a small business owner. Both types of infringement could result in disaster for your tech startup. Just because your business is small and new, it does not mean it will fly under the radar. Besides, you surely want to grow your company and become a recognized brand. If you want to expand your startup, you need to ensure you make none of the above IP mistakes.