Developing a solid intellectual property (IP) strategy is essential for emerging companies preparing for market entrance. A sharp understanding and tactical plan for protecting your IP is critical not only before you start but also during the lifespan of the company. Good “IP hygiene” demands that IP is protected from the start of your enterprise.
What Is “IP Hygiene”?
The term “IP hygiene” refers to the practice of ensuring that legal ownership of the intellectual property at the core of the business is explicitly established. Ownership of IP assets should be so well documented that any questions that arise about IP rights are easily answered. Employees and consultants are almost always engaged to build upon the IP of an emerging company, as is often the case in software development endeavors. Practicing good IP hygiene significantly diminishes the likelihood that further development of assets by early stage contributors will escalate to litigation should disputes about ownership arise.
Protect your assets by clearly establishing IP ownership at the start of your business venture.
Trade Secrets and Patents
Trade secrets are the core ideas and inventions around which a business is built. The process of patenting an invention or trade secret includes providing a detailed description of the invention, submitting an application to the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) and other patent organizations around the world, proceeding with the review process and, if granted, establishing a patent. Unfortunately, the process typically takes several years. Once a patent has been awarded, the idea and/or invention is classified as a patent right.
There are two categories of trademarks: common law trademarks and registered trademarks. The trademark application process in the United States is similar to that of the patenting process. An applicant will define the trademark, file an application with the USPTO, engage in an application review process, and then, hopefully, within two to three years, receive trademark approval status. Both patents and trademarks receive a retroactive award date based on the date the application was initially filed.
Contributions by women inventors are critical to advancing innovation. To create a more inclusive IP environment, Perkins Coie developed LedBetter® Imagine, a program that honors the work of women inventors and offers key benefits to support women’s participation in the innovation ecosystem. LedBetter® Imagine, inspired by the USPTO’s Progress and Potential Report, provides women inventors and their companies with educational programming, networking events, and discounts for select patent services under Perkins Coie’s LedBetter® program.
LedBetter® Imagine offers alternative fee arrangements for LedBetter-qualifying startups and emerging companies by offering credit for nonprovisional patent application filings that name woman inventors. Find out more.
Perpetual Motion® Podcast
Patent attorneys at Perkins Coie LLP have a passion for talking tech. In this series, they take off their attorney hats to interview inventors and technology pioneers on exciting innovations and inventorship-related topics. Listen now.