For many startups in the technology sector, their most valuable asset is an idea, and in today’s Internet-connected world, an idea can be worth billions of dollars. The ability to instantly reach and connect millions of people on their smartphones can be extraordinarily valuable for marketers and advertisers, and one need only look to the explosive growth of companies like Snapchat or Instagram to see how a good idea can create fortunes literally overnight.

For this reason, it is critical for individuals who are part of a tech startup to ensure that their intellectual property, or IP, is well protected. Some of the concerns that apply specifically to tech startups are discussed below.

Utilizing the Appropriate Type of Protection – There are various forms of intellectual property protections, including copyrights, trademarks, patents, and trade secret protections. The type of IP protections that are appropriate in a particular case is dependent on the type of IP that is at issue as well as the scope and nature of the protections sought. As a result, anyone seeking to safeguard their IP should discuss their options with an attorney familiar with working with tech startups.

Consider IP Protections when Shopping your Idea to Investors or Developers

Many startups that have an idea for new technology lack the skills, expertise, or infrastructure to move beyond the concept phase and actually develop their idea into a marketable product. In some cases, startups seek investors in order to obtain funding to obtain the necessary resources while, in others, founders may seek outside assistance on a contract basis in order to get their idea off of the ground. In either case, it often becomes necessary to disclose certain facts about an idea that may make it possible for another party to profit from developing it. Consequently, it is critical for startups that are shopping their idea to third parties to take steps to ensure that their IP is not misappropriated. Two of the most commonly utilized protections are detailed below.

  • Non-Disclosure Agreements – NDAs are contracts that prohibit one or both parties from disclosing confidential information to others and from using it for their own benefit. In the event that the agreement is violated, the offending party may be held liable for the resulting damages. NDAs should be carefully tailored to each specific information, and a “boilerplate” NDA found online could result in significant losses.
  • Provisional Patents – Getting a patent for an idea can be a long and costly process, and many startups do not want to wait for a patent to be issued and may be rightfully concerned that another party may “beat them to the punch.” Fortunately, it is often possible to obtain a provisional patent that gives an idea “patent pending” status. This means that if another party misappropriates the idea, the party with the provisional patent can often recover damages once the patent is actually filed. In addition, the patent owner can also seek an injunction in order to have the offending party stop selling the infringing product.

Call a Silicon Valley startup attorney today to discuss your situation

Entrepreneurs and founders who are in the tech sector should take care to protect their intellectual property at every stage of development, from concept to deployment. To schedule a consultation with Silicon Valley business lawyer Claire Kalia, call our office today at 650-701-7617 or send us an email through our online contact form.

- Claire Kalia


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